Garybsmith

Trading, Golf, General thoughts. Not necessarily in that order.

Month: April, 2012

UPS lost my package??

Let me get this out there:  I love UPS.  Love their tracking system.  Love their reliability.  Love my driver (who I see more often than my kids.)

So, when we had a package to be delivered this past Monday and it was a no show, I was floored.  I diligently entered the tracking number, and at last check, it was in the Maryland depot.

I assume it was then loaded on a truck…and vanished.

Yes, that’s right: the package had vanished and UPS finally admitted — egads! — it was lost.

Now, in all my years dealing with UPS, I have had late packages, I have had damaged packages, but never LOST packages.  Never.

And what I can’t figure out is HOW it got lost.  I mean, if it’s scanned in the warehouse, where could it have gone?  Is it hiding in a corner?  Did the delivery guy get taken hostage?  Did it fall off the truck?  Was it hajacked by black-market thieves?

Really, it’s all kind of disconcerting.  Sure, if it’s the USPS, I can understand (along with regularly receiving mail for the people who lived here 15 years ago, I also end up delivering my neighbors mail about as often as the mailman does….).   But, UPS?  I may have to take a few days to recover.

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No wonder our kids are fat.

Many years ago when my kids were rowing, I served on the board of the Parent’s committee.  Since the athletic department did not fund the sport, parents were pretty much responsible for everything from hiring the coaches to buying the equipment.

But you know what occupied most of our time?  The whole subject of food: how much to provide at the regattas, when it would be served, who would be doing the cooking, who had to cleanup, etc. etc.

And even though my kids are long done with high school, I’m still on the email list for the Parent’s board.  It seems the food situation has gotten out of hand.

As an example, for the last regatta there were no less then 14 emails on how, when and where the parents would provide both breakfast AND lunch.  And these spreads are enormous: bagels, cream cheese, OJ, muffins, sandwiches, chips, omelets….I mean you’d think you were between games at the Bellagio for how big these spreads are.  http://www.bellagio.com/restaurants/the-buffet.aspx

Of course, I’m all for providing growing kids with food, but here’s the thing:

Most kids participate in ONE race.  A high school race is maybe 6 minutes.  Now 6 minutes ALL OUT, and you might burn 100 calories.  100 calories!  Of course, they have to warmup and cooldown, so I’ll give them credit for another 50 calories.  So, in 8 hours, they burn 150 calories through exercise.

150 calories is half a can of Coke and half a chicken salad sandwich!

But, from experience these kids eat like there’s no tomorrow.  Put food out, and it will be eaten, and my estimate is that the average kid probably consumes 1000 calories at these events.

And we wonder why there’s an obesity problem.

DVMs trump MDs.

I took our little dog Lulu to the Vet yesterday and I realized Vets have it in spades over regular Doctors.  In fact, I bet if you have a pet you’ve experienced the same thing:

1.  I’ve been to maybe 7 different Vets over our pet-owning years.  I have NEVER met a Vet who wasn’t kind, courteous, and caring.  They specialize in animals, but their people skills are first-rate.

2.  The people who do all the admin work at Vets trump almost any front-desk folks at regular Doctors.  For whatever reason, they never have an attitude and always seem to give a damn about your pet.

3.  I can usually make an appointment the same day.  With a normal Doctor, you’re lucky to see the person in the same month.  With my Vet, if I call first thing in the morning, I can usually have our dog in that afternoon.

4.  And once I get there, time in the waiting room is about 2 minutes.  Now maybe our Vet is particularly speedy, but I’d say 5 minutes is my average wait time at ALL the Vets I’ve seen.  Average wait time at a regular Doctor?  Uh, considerably more than 5 minutes.

5.  Vets are always close by.  Our Vet is 5 minutes from our house.  No fancy office building, no “medical complex.”  Just a normal house converted into a Vet’s office.  99% of the Doctors I’ve seen aren’t anywhere near as convenient.

Now, when it gets to Vet specialists, well, they’re a little more uppity.  But, they’re still a lot more down-to-earth than the normal big-shot cardiac surgeon.

Of course, when I was growing up, our family MD was almost exactly like Vets are now: humble, kind, and seemed to give a sh*t.  I just hope Vets don’t evolve the same way.

 

Almost cut my hair

With apologies to David Crosby, I actually did cut my hair.  No, not “got a haircut” but actually cut my own hair.

In fact, I’ve been doing it for years and I don’t understand why most guys don’t do it.

About 10 years ago I just got tired of running to the barber.  40 minutes of driving, plus 10 minutes of waiting, plus 20 minutes of haircutting.  The price wasn’t bad — about $20 as I recall — but the whole trip was just an annoying waste of time.

Now I have a history of some pretty lousy hair, so I figured with a barbershop type razor and the right setting, I could just cut it all one length and be done in 5 minutes.

Surprisingly, that’s exactly how it’s turned out.  In fact, I was at the Rite Aid the other day, and replaced my razor with a Conair model for $10 ($8 after my Rite Aid frequent shopper discount!).  Snapped on the #2 trimmer and cut my hair like I was cutting the lawn.  All one length, and done right over the sink.

Then I just trim around the ears and I’m done.  Money saved directly into my pocket.

Even better, a time savings of at least an hour!

You watch: Tennis is about to make a comeback!

A few weeks ago, Nancy and I started playing tennis again.  We had dabbled at it a bit about 25 years ago, but lost interest and moved on to other things.

It was ironic, because I had played both racquetball and squash for years, and was at least competent with ball and racquet.  But those were primarily winter/indoor sports, while tennis seemed to compete with golf for outdoor time.  And nothing interfered with my golf game until a few years ago.

But, as I wrote about recently, golf is in the rearview mirror and we both found ourselves with free time late in the day.  So, we ordered some new equipment — I didn’t even have sneakers worthy of running around a court — and started hitting around again.

One thing we noticed is that we hardly ever see anyone on the thousands of courts in our area.  Public courts are vacant, and it seems people have backyard courts in place only so they have less lawn to take care of.  Tennis seems about as popular now as racquetball.

However, I’m certain our re-entry to the sport will change all that.  It’s not that we’re trendsetters by any means.  But, I would say we have a history of being right behind the bleeding edge.  Examples:

— I took up golf in 1968.  Right after the Arnie boom, but right before it really took off.

— I entered Duke in 1975…just before it became DUKE.

— Nancy started rowing in 2002…just before the biggest surge in Masters rowing in years.

— When we moved to DC in 1999, the area had the country’s 5th worst traffic congestion.  Now, it’s #1.

Of course, I could go on and on, but you get my point: start buying stock in HEAD!

People who don’t need people

A curious thing happened at my local Bank of America branch: when they installed the new type of ATM’s which can handle cash and check deposits…..people stopped using the drive-thru tellers.

Yes, even though there are generally 2 tellers available, there is often a line for the ATM machine while the teller lines are empty!

In short, even though the teller and ATM offer the same services, people would rather deal with the machine than a human person.

This isn’t good or bad, but does tell me one thing: people generally don’t like to deal with other people.

Need another example?  How many of you would rather interact with someone via email vs. phone?  Right, the great majority.

Of course, I’m pretty much the same way: I like people around — I avoid empty restaurants for example — I just don’t like dealing with them directly.

All of which may make me a bit strange, or based on my bank example, ahead of the curve.

You’re not even curious?

A few years ago, Nancy was competing in a regatta at Princeton, NJ.  As she paddled to the starting line, she introduced herself to the person in the adjoining lane and the two chatted a bit.  Nancy asked if the other person knew many people in their race.  The person replied that last year’s winner was in the  previous heat, but other than that she hadn’t heard of anyone else.

At that time, Nancy had just won the bronze at Masters Nationals, had taken second the year before at the Head of the Charles, and had dozens of other medals in regattas around the country.  In her age division, she was probably one of the top 5 women in the U.S.

And from what I can tell, this lack of curiosity, or more exactly — the lack of doing one’s homework — is how most people operate!

Now maybe this other lady was doing the whole “zen” sports thing, where she just showed up, rowed her own race, and then went home, happy she gave it her all.

Still, I don’t think most competitors are like that and in this day and age where even Scooby Doo has a wikipedia page, it’s easy to find information effortlessly on everyone who’s in your event.  In regattas, heat sheets come out a few days prior to the event, and all you have to do is enter “Nancy Faigen” regatta, or “Nancy Faigen” rowing and you know exactly who your competition is.

I had the same experience with cycling recently.  I posted some nice comments on a fellow racer’s Strava.com “blog” about one of his rides.  We vaguely know each other and he commented back that I also had some nice times, especially for someone who never did any road races.

I replied back that yes, I didn’t have any road races…but I did have a lot of time trials (20+, all easily found at uscycling.org) and in fact we had competed against each other….just last August! (albeit in different age groups.)

Now I realize all this smacks of “look at me,” and yes, maybe I’m just anal on figuring out who’s doing what, but still: do people operate in such a small world they don’t even know who or what planet is in the very next orbit?

I’m sick.

I’m now on day 12 of my annual lingering cold.  I’m fortunate, in that I don’t get sick much at all, save this same time every Spring.

It all goes the same exact way:

1.  Sore throat

2. Stuffed nose

3. Post-nasal drip, resulting in THE WORST COUGH ever.

(In fact, if there was some kind of contest for coughing, I am certain I would win the world championship.  I don’t know what activates the cough mechanism in the body, but my throat is so finely tuned, it can detect molecules smaller than an electron passing through. )

4. Sore throat (kind of the cold’s way of saying goodbye.)

This time around, I have the added pleasure of having blocked ears, and as I can’t hear a thing out of my right ear to begin with, I’m now pretty much deaf.

Anyway, I bring this up not to complain, but to say it’s all so predictable it’s a shame I have to even go to the Doctor.  Heck, I could write the script:  “You now have a sinus infection.  I’m going to give you perscription for a Z-pac, some Claritin-D, some nasal spray, and cough syrup with codeine.”

And I’m always better before the medicine is half gone.

So, why can’t all this stuff just be available over the counter?  Of if there’s some big risk I’m going to “abuse” my cough syrup, at least behind the counter?

Yes, I know most colds go away on their own. And I know about all the over-prescription of antibiotics.

But, seriously: after 54 years on the same merry-go-round, can’t I just self-medicate and be done with it?  Can’t I take some kind of test that says I’m an adult who knows his own body and won’t get high on multiple Z-packs?

I guess in this day and age of over-regulation, though, personal responsibility is out the door.  God forbid we take care of ourselves.