Inside Amazon

Caught this feature about Amazon from last night's NBC Nightly News.

Fascinating ...

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RIP Twinkies

I love Twinkies.

So much that I used to buy a box or two during every trip I made to the grocery store during my college days.

Until Kates convinced me how bad they were for me. And I ceased buying them out of fear  I would die too young of a heart attack.

Still, it was with great sadness that I read the news of Hostess' financial troubles and the death of the Twinkie.

And suddenly I, too, have a powerful urge to run out and buy a box of Twinkies just to taste that goodness once more before it's gone for good.


Off and running

Well, it wasn’t as dramatic as four years ago (I did miss the ol' newsroom a little). But Election Night 2012 was still a lot of fun.

I voted over my lunch break. Kates voted when she was finished with her school day.

Later, we met at home as a family. Ate dinner. Got the girls tucked into their beds. And settled in for what we figured would be a long night of watching the election returns.

After all, this year’s campaign was one of the nastiest ever. Watching and reading the people who cover news these last few days, the race appeared to be so evenly split. I had begun to believe Romney had the edge. Or we were destined for a repeat of 2000 when we didn't know who won for weeks …

Side note: I was in Washington, D.C., for that election. And I’ll never forget walking the streets the morning after with the front pages of the Washington Times shouting, “NO PRESIDENT YET.” I have a photograph

As always, we tuned into Brian Williams, the crew on NBC, and their painted ice rink at Rockefeller Center. I also kept a close eye on Twitter, of course.

As the hours passed, the returns looked good for Obama. … But I wasn’t taking anything for granted. There were a lot of states left to be called.

Around 10 p.m., I decided to switch to The Daily Show, wanting a break from the straight news talk and thinking surely Jon Stewart and his crew would provide some good entertainment. … Actually, we watched The Daily Show up to the first commercial break, and then I switched to our DVR’d recording of Monday night’s Daily Show, while fully intending to come back to the Election Night Daily Show afteward so we could watch it commercial free.

But around 10:15, a Twitter post flashed that Obama won Ohio and thus had been declared the winner.

It was too early. That couldn’t be true.

Immediately, I stopped the Daily Show and switched back to NBC’s live coverage. Brian and the gang were calling it for Obama, too.

Twitter was flying with tweets now. And like that, this long, bitter, rollercoaster of a presidential campaign was over with Barack Obama retaining the presidency.


Now, there were a lot of races and propositions during this election that Kates and I would have preferred to go the other way, but I’m not going to get that detailed.

I’m glad it’s over.

Another thing that’s over: Phoebe’s sling-wearing.

After last week’s accident the doctor told us she might only have to wear the sling for a week before she’d be running around like nothing happened. But as much pain as Phoebe appeared to be in, we thought surely she’d have to wear it for two or three weeks, at least.

Instead – after our sleepless weekend – something changed Sunday.That evening Phoebe shouted to me, “Daddy! Look! I can move my arm!” And there she was, flapping it like a bird.

So, as scheduled, I took her to the doctor this afternoon for a check-up. The doctor removed the sling from Phoebe’s arm, felt the bones and had Phoebe move her arm. Phoebe moved it freely without pain. … The doctor made a call to an orthopedic doctor for some consultation, and when she returned she gave Phoebe the all-clear.

Phoebe jumped and danced all the way out of the doctor’s office, flinging her arms above her head and singing, “No more sling! No more sling!”

We’re off and running again.

Good reads ...
a How a Race in the Balance Went to Obama
a How Obama Won Re-election
a President Obama's Six Keys to Victory
a Networks tread lightly to avoid 'Dewey defeats Truman' flub
a From Frustrated to Nervous, Television Networks’ Moods Explain Results
a Election night review: TV news announces Obama re-elected; analyzing the analysts
a On TV, broadcasters search for a drama that never materialized
a Election 2012: From Brian Williams to Jon Stewart to Shep Smith, how each network covered the election
a Rove holds Fox News hostage, is ultimately defeated by those traitorous statistics he once loved so much
a Twitter reaction to Obama win: Trump goes on tirade, RuPaul tells Romney to 'sashay away'


Some nights

Well, this weekend will prove to be more memorable than we anticipated.

Phoebe’s fall on Thursday has made our lives a bit more interesting. And our precious sleep hours have diminished further the last two nights.

The worst part for the ever-energetic Phoebe is having her arm in a sling that prevents her from moving the way she wants to, and she’s very uncomfortable. The fact that she can’t sleep the way she wants is torture.

Between Faye waking up every couple hours to eat and Phoebe waking up every couple hours, crying in pain, we got little sleep during the Thursday-Friday overnight hours. Last night was worse.

Phoebe would wake up. Kates or I would settle her down. Return to bed. Faye would wake up, crying. Kates would take care of Faye. Phoebe would wake up again. At one point, they were both screaming. Kates headed to Faye’s room, and I went to Phoebe’s.

I got up around 1 a.m. to answer Phoebe’s crying and spent the next hour at her bed side, trying to calm her down while she pounded on her bed – with her good arm – in frustration. We read stories and sang songs. Finally, I agreed to sleep in her bed with her. But that ended abruptly when she started complaining I was taking up too much room. … At around 2:30 a.m., Phoebe started crying loud enough again that it woke Kates. A few moments later, she appeared at Phoebe’s door, we switched places and I headed back to our bed.

It went on like that the rest of the early morning hours. And when daylight broke, Kates and I looked at each other in despair. “O-M-G,” Kates sighed.

“MOM-my,” called Phoebe from her room across the hall. And we got out of bed to officially begin our Saturday.

We had anticipated the memories we made today stemming largely from today’s homecoming festivities at the university.

With Phoebe not doing the dance thing this year, last year’s dramathankfully – was absent. We dressed and were ready to go in plenty of time this year. We buckled Phoebe into the stroller so she didn’t have to walk and could rest easy with her arm, and Faye went in the Baby Bjorn with me. (Yes, the Baby Bjorn, which I discovered a couple weeks ago in what was probably the last box left unopened since our move. Don’t ask me how I missed it this past summer when we wanted the Baby Bjorn for Faye’s first baseball game.)

We walked up to College Drive, on the parade route and found an open spot on the sidewalk, near the alumni house and the president’s house, which is one of the hot parade-watching spots.

Soon enough the firetrucks, police squads and other emergency vehicles rolled up the hill to signal the parade’s start. There was the usual collection of colorful floats. The community groups walking in the parade or waving from trailers. The variety of marching bands. And this year we had the added bonus of political groups pushing their candidates for Tuesday’s election – including two people dressed and wearing masks depicting the likes of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Faye had fallen asleep before the parade was over. And Phoebe ended up with a nice pile of candy on the tray of her stroller.

When the parade ended and Kates and I started the walk back to our house, Kates and I looked at each other, smiling. Our sleepless night aside, the morning had been a success. The kids were happy, and smiling, and a good time was had by all. “That was a lot of fun,” I said.

After some lunch, Phoebe and I headed back to the campus for the afternoon’s big football game. It was a gorgeous afternoon for a football game.

Our beloved Bearcats went into the game ranked No. 4 in the nation. The opponent was ranked No. 20 and had led the conference for most of the season. … The game was no contest. Pheebs was ready to go midway through the second quarter, and I obliged. We walked home and I watched the rest of the game on the TV at home. Our team won, 55-10.

It was  great day. Now let's hope we all sleep tonight.


Disney acquires Lucasfilm

When I saw the first tweet pop up, I shrugged it off as some kind of joke.

There's going to be a Star Wars Episode 7. The lights just went out on your childhood.
Then more appeared, and soon after it was confirmed.
Breaking: Disney acquiring Lucasfilm for $4.05 billion; deal will give Disney ownership of the "Star Wars" franchise, more.
In short, I love the Star Wars films. Like almost every other American boy who grew up in the '80s, I always have. And I pray that Disney doesn't scar the franchise.

I also hope the new films build on the heritage and stories of the previous six films. Some appearances by the original actors would be awesome. ... I wince at the reports of Disney making the films with entirely new storylines.

All we can do now is hold our breath for 2015. ... As always, EW has it t covered and is all over the speculation game.

(Updated 2.22.2013) Good reads ...
a The Paste Guide to Star Wars VII Rumors
a Harrison Ford open to idea of Han Solo role
a Mark Hamill Reacts to Star Wars VII
a Mark Hamill weighs in on the future of 'Star Wars'
a Carrie Fisher Wants to be in Star Wars: Episode VII
a Who should direct new 'Star Wars' movie? Christopher Nolan? Joss Whedon? J.J. Abrams?
a 'Star Wars' sequels: Think of the children
a ‘Star Wars’ flashback: Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia audition tape
a George Lucas Talks Future of 'Star Wars' and Lucasfilm
a Mark Hamill on 'Star Wars: Episode VII': 'They're talking to us'

Oh, Sandy

So Hurricane Sandy made big news this week. ... Check out this video of the hurricane rolling in.

New Jersey is practically gone.

The presidential campaign is in flux. ... Mitt Romney had no choice but to follow Obama and pull off the campaign trail, or look like a fool. And yet, Obama, in a way, is still very much continuing his campaign as he responds to the crisis, as he is expected to do. He and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are suddenly pals, and all the momentum Romney had in these final weeks is dissipating thanks to Sandy.

Then, there's the story of that dangling crane.

Still, amid the chaos, there's two side stories that I may remember most ...

All of the falsehoods being passed around social media as the storm was brewing and in its aftermath, particularly the image of guards at the Tomb of the Unknowns. (For the record, I didn't bite on any of the false images. ...C'mon, people, do your research before you retweet that stuff.)

And Monday's Late Show With David Letterman. ... One of the weirdest, eeriest television experiences I've ever had. To see Dave on his set, doing a show and surrounded by a skeleton production crew, and a theater of empty seats. Here's EW's recap. ... And here's another, along with some of Jimmy Fallon's shown, on which he also played to no audience.


Hello, iPhone

So I think my iPod is showing its age. A thick black streak showed up on the screen a few weeks ago, and it doesn’t seem to be disappearing anytime soon. … It was only a matter of time. I’ve worked the little white device hard during the last – let me think about this – seven years, playing it for hours almost daily in my office and home.

Remember when I was so obsessed with simply owning one?

And that brings me to the newest addition to my gadget family. …

I am now an iPhone user.

Remember when I hated the idea of a cell phone being more than a device to simply call people?

The fact that I’m now equipped with an iPhone came about from a lucky turn of events connected to my work. I had been working the last three years with a Blackberry Curve … Yes, some days I fantasized about having an iPhone, but the Blackberry was working just fine for me. I didn’t know anything different, and the thought of trying to type on the iPhone’s touchscreen intimidated me.

Nonethless, I was awarded an opportunity to work with an iPhone – an iPhone 3 – on a trial basis and see how I liked it. … I liked it all right. And, after about a week, through another lucky turn of events, I was upgraded to a brand spanking new iPhone 5.

Cue the angel chorus.

I received it during the morning hours and refused to remove the packaging before I had all of the accessories. I’d seen so many of my colleagues traipsing around with cracked screens that I wasn’t even going to try using my new phone without protecting first.

So, during my lunch break, I went on a search for a case and eventually ended up at the AT&T store, where a perky young woman came to my assistance. I picked out a case I thought would work and the woman offered to put it on for me.

She seemed to share my lust for the high-tech phone. Though I suppose she’s paid to do that.

“Ooooh, you haven’t even taken it out of its packaging yet,” she said.

“No, I wanted to make sure I had it protected first.”

“Absolutely!” she said as she removed the plastic wrapping. Then she began bathing the screen and encasement.

“Have you had an iPhone before?”

“Yes,” I said, totally not acknowledging that I’m still an iPhone newbie and I had just been transformed from being a loyal Blackberry user.

“Which one did you have?”

“An iPhone 3.”

“Ooooh, you’re going to like this!” the woman said.

Having experienced some of the outdated-ness during my trial run with the iPhone 3 and having some knowledge of the upgrades in the newer models, I didn’t doubt she was right.

I smiled. “I can hardly wait.”

Fast forward to a few weeks later and – yes, yes, I am liking it.

I feel like I have my whole world in my hands. Literally.

I can access my email – work and personal – with the touch of the screen, no matter where I am. And all of my social media accounts. I could only access Facebook on my Blackberry.

I can blog on my iPhone.

I can access all of my favorite news and sports sites. At lightning speeds.

I can get instant weather updates with the Weather Channel app.

I can snap pictures and upload them immediately to my Flickr page, or Facebook – although I much prefer Flickr. … The photo part is a good thing because my digital camera had begun showing its age recently, too. Most of my pictures came out blurred on the left side, no matter the lighting or settings with which I was working.

And I have officially joined the Instagram community. …Yeah, Instragram. I have a love-hate relationship with Instagram. …

(Why must people take every photo with Instragram and run those same photos through one of the vintage-styled, sepia-toned filters so that you can suddenly pretend to be some hip, artistic photographer? I believe there are certain times and places to use Instagram. Not all the time. There are photos that are perfectly captured and displayed in their array of colors and don’t deserve to be diluted by Instagram. Respect the art of photography, people.)

Sort of like the love-hate relationship I have with Facebook photo albums …

(Why must people post every blurry, out-of-focus, close-up they take to Facebook? Delete the poor photos, people! And no matter what you post, they all seem to end up in a disorganized mess, never to be looked at again – because you’d have to spend hours trying to figure out where they ended up. Seriously, good luck finding those photos from that one night you and your buddies went to the corner pub that one summer.)

Which all goes back to my preference for Flickr, its ease of use, privacy settings and wonderful ability to organize and display photos.

I’ve digressed.

Now, with my iPhone, I can listen to any radio station I want, wherever I want. … One weekend, I was doing some work in Phoebe’s room and wanted to listen to the Bearcat football game. I downloaded the Public Radio app, and – bam! – I could listen to the broadcast loud and clear on my phone. Later, I downloaded the app for WTMXthe Chicago radio station that Kates and I have faithfully listened to for a decade now; we've regularly accessed it online since moving to The ‘Ville. … And just think about the possibilities from there! I can restore my summer pastime of working in the yard while I listen to Cubs game on WGN or Brewers games on WTMJ, or classic rock on WDRV.

When we made our move to The ‘Ville, Kates and I discussed one of the advantages being that the world was becoming a smaller place and becoming more mobile. But I never imagined this!

And then there's the access to my music library. After a couple weeks of using the iPhone, I warmed up to the idea of testing how it could work with iTunes and my music library. That night, I was walking through our house with the sounds of “Abbey Road” echoing through the hallway. And the next night we were dancing around to Fun. In our kitchen. … My music library grew beyond the capacity my iPod long ago, but I’ve figured out the iPhone has nearly double the capacity – not that I’m going to load my entire music library on the iPhone. Only the really good stuff will go on the iPhone; the iPod remains my preferred music listening device.

I’m just skimming the surface here. But life is definitely good with the iPhone.

The fracture

Last night, everything was grand.

We took the girls trick-or-treating at the residence halls on the university campus, and Phoebe filled her Halloween bucket with enough candy to get us through the next year. It’s a Halloween tradition I’ve been wanting to try since we moved to The ‘Ville, and it was totally worth it. Some of the students really decorated their rooms for the season.

Then, before calling it a night, we went to visit our friends, Jeff and Gina, at their home, where Phoebe received yet more candy. And there was Phoebe, rough-housing and wrestling with Jeff on the floor.

The girl has no fear. ...

Until  …

I was hard at work in my office today, pumping out another piece about all that is good about our university when my phone rang at about 3:30 p.m. It was Kates.

When I answered the phone, Kates was on the other end but distracted. I could hear crying in the background and Kates was asking, “Where does it hurt?”

After a couple seconds she noticed I had answered the phone call and said, “Phoebe just fell on the playground.”

I sighed a quick sigh and flipped my mental switch into crisis mode. This was bound to happen sooner than later.

Kates continued. Phoebe couldn’t move her arm and appeared to be in a lot of pain. Kates didn’t think she could strap Phoebe into her car seat. Without hesitation, I said I would meet them at the school so we could go to the hospital.

I dropped what I was doing and headed to the elementary school. After first heading to Kates’ classroom and then being directed by a custodian to the preschool classroom only to find no one there, I finally found them in a principal’s office. Phoebe was in a kid-sized lounge chair, clutching her arm, which had been placed in a small dinosaur. She was surrounded by Kates, a kindergarten teacher and one of the principals. I walked into the room, Phoebe made eye contact with me and she started balling. She was scared more than anything.

No one seems to know exactly what happened – the playground supervisor didn’t see what happened – but according to the kids, Phoebe was swinging on a bar above a slide when she fell and banged her elbow on the slide. All we knew was our next stop was the hospital to get her arm checked out.

“Daddy, I want you to carry me,” she said through the tears.

I scooped her up and we walked to my car. Kates took her place in the front passenger seat, and I set Phoebe in her lap. Since Phoebe couldn’t and wouldn’t move her arm, we agreed that was the best way to transport her – and, despite her pain, Phoebe thought that was pretty cool that she got to ride in the front seat.

Throughout this adventure, there were a few gems to come from Phoebe’s mouth, but, of course, now that the hours have passed I can’t remember most of them. The best came as we started the drive to the hospital and she muttered, “I hope I don’t have a crooked arm.”

At the hospital, Kates got Phoebe checked in as I continued holding her. And “Friends” was showing on the TV in the waiting room, so that was good. … (Kates and I have had it on a lot lately – TBS runs it non-stop, it seems – so Phoebe, naturally, has taken an interest in it, especially since it has a character with her name. And, no, it’s probably not a show a 4-year-old should be watching, but heck, I was watching stuff like “Three’s Company” and “The A-Team” when I was her age, and I turned out just fine, so I’m not going to sweat it.)

Eventually, a nurse directed us to a room in the emergency wing, where we met a couple more nurses who began checking Phoebe and taking notes about her symptoms. … After that phase of the adventure, I left to pick up Faye from her daycare, which is conveniently located next door to the hospital. I found her wrapped in a blanket and soundly asleep.

When I returned to the emergency room, a doctor was there and explaining the X-ray process. A few minutes later, a couple technicians wheeled an X-ray machine into the room. The tears started pouring from Phoebe’s eyes again, and the technicians gave their best effort coaxing Phoebe to rest her arm on a table so they could get their pictures while Kates stood by trying to comfort her. … It wasn’t as torturous as the night we had to put Phoebe through a CT scan, but that scared cry of your daughter never ceases to tear your heart.

When the doctor returned with the results, there was no definitive diagnosis. He said the X-rays showed something, but nothing serious enough that wouldn’t heal quickly. Meanwhile, I’m thinking, “Ok, doc, so what are we going to do about it? Let’s play it safe here. Spit it out.” … Finally, he told us they were calling it a Salter-Harris type I physeal fracture of the left distal humerus. The best thing to do was put her arm in a sling and bring her back to the hospital for a check-up in a week, although she may have to wear the sling for two or three weeks.

Two and a half hours later, we headed home – with a pit stop for Kentucky Fried Chicken on the way.

There won’t be any gymnastics for Phoebe for a while.