Friday, May 18, 2001

Shop Different

Editor's NOTE: This is a moldie oldie that I pulled from a text dump archive. None of the links will work anymore (or 99% won't) - but the names and companies have NOT changed.

Apple announced its line of retail stores this week with the slogan "Shop Different." I, for one, WANT to Shop Different. I'm tired of going into a super-mega, warehouse-style concrete behemoth and TRY to find anything I'm actually looking for. "Use the Web", you say. I do. A lot. However, there are time when I just need (or want!) something RIGHT NOW.

What did we ever do before the web? Maybe I'm showing my age here, but there was a time that one would actually (gasp!) drive to a store, walk down the aisles, pick out a piece of merchandise, pay for it and leave. If one had a question - there was (usually) an informed, knowledgeable person waiting (and willing) to answer questions (or even find out the answer if they didn't know) and, sometimes, help one to make a more informed buying decision by comparing the pros and cons of competing products. The salesperson (there were no "associates" back then) was usually a person who knew from personal experience what worked and what didn't. The good ones could (and would) offer tips, advice and helpful information based on their knowledge and past experience. In general, they actually wanted to help, and cared whether or not you, the customer, would be satisfied with your purchase. They valued your business, and really wanted you to come back in the future and buy more stuff.

In direct contrast, I went to 3 "brink and mortar" stores looking for a keyboard extension cable for one of my Macs. I was a man on a mission. It seems every time I mentioned "Mac" in one of these very well-established, well-known, national, we-have-everything stores - all I received in return was a blank stare. "We don't have Mac stuff." "A keyboard what?" "All of our cables are on aisle 426B." You get the idea. About 2 hours into my quest, I realized that I had unrealistic expectations about finding the cable, without, perhaps, driving to Fry's (a computer specialty retailer about a half hour away). In the end, I just logged on to Mac Warehouse and ordered the thing – and received it the next day.

On the other hand, I went to Home Depot (a massive warehouse chain with everything you need for home improvement) to try to find a replacement for the 15 year old kitchen faucet that had finally given up the ghost. I talked to an associate named Dave, an older gentleman (and ex-plumber) who went WAY above and beyond the call of duty to help me select an affordable, reliable faucet from the 50 models hanging on the display rack. He advised against purchasing the model that I was initially going to purchase because he said the manufacturer has historically had a problem with the plastic sealing washer, and suggested 2 other models (from different manufacturers) that were more reliable. I wound up buying the more expensive model, and went away totally confident that I made a good purchase.

On the eve of the Grand Opening of the Apple Store in Glendale, CA (about 45 minutes from my house) – I hope that Apple will provide a retail experience as great as its technology. I WANT to Shop Different. I'll let you know what I find out.

Update May 20, 2001: I went to the store in at the Glendale Galleria and there was a LINE. Yep, I'm serious. There was a line that was at least 100 yards long! People waiting to get into a store! Who knew? The store (from the outside looking in) is beautiful, and was fully staffed with Apple folks and TONS of security people. There was also a whole lot of purchasing going on... Wow.

Monday, April 09, 2001


Editor's NOTE: This is a moldie oldie that I pulled from a text dump archive. None of the links will work anymore (or 99% won't) - but the names and companies have NOT changed.

Every consumer magazine, trade magazine, computer magazine, and ezine are hyping wireless "solutions" these days. Today's writers and software vendors are shouting the the new mantra from the mountain tops: "m-commerce" (Mobile Commerce). M-Commerce? Give me a break. I'm having a hard enough time getting a reliable CELL PHONE connection - never mind a secure, e-commerce connection. Seriously, there are parts of the metro Los Angeles area that don't have normal, plain old cellular coverage. And forget it if you're "off the beaten trail", or you're in the mountains, or you're - gasp - actually moving when using your wireless device.

Yes, I know, there are more and more towers going up all the time, and the phone are getting "smarter" and can connect to a wider range of signals (analog and digial) - but it just plain "don't work" too much of the time. Even if you had 100% clean, reliable coverage I'm not conviced that people will try to buy much of anything on phone with a 3 line display. I mean, really, are YOU looking forward to "tapping" your way through entering your name, shipping address, phone number, email, credit card number and expiration date out on a cell phone? Let's see...

22 = B
666 = O
22 = B
0 = space
222 = C
88 = U
7777 = S
444 = I
222 = C
55 = K

25 "taps" for my name. Rrrrriiiight. Homey don't play that. OK, you say, what it might not be practical on a cell phone - but how about a PDA. It's much easier to "type" on one of those. I agree - but no matter how much I love my Palm Vx (and I DO love it!) - and assuming I bought the $300 wireless modem and paid the $35 per month for service - I STILL wouldn't do it that often. Why? Too much work. Instead I'd just wait until I got to a wired public access point (another much-hyped, "didn't really work out" technology of two years ago) and use my computer to connect with a fast, secure connection.

You've gotta' crawl before you can run. Just because you CAN connect to the web on a cell phone or PDA - why would you? A more logical first step first step could be the implementation of BlueTooth and other wireless networking technology infrastructure in places I'm likely to be (airports, hotels, and in the home) - THEN having an alternative INPUT device would be great. But still, even then, people will will have to click, type, tap or scrawl to place an order. This is less than ideal. Generally, people want things to be easy - especially if they're parting with money for goods or services. We really need something as easy to use, as intuitive, as... oh I don't know... a phone.

For "m-commerce" - or anything wireless beyond stock updates - to become truely pervasive we need voice-activation. I mean, my parents (not the most tech-saavy people on the planet) have to be able to use it. I'm not talking about some super-charged voicemail-hell type of application (" 1 to order, enter your 16 digit account number followed by the pound sign...") but a true, voice-activiate, intelligent application (" FileMaker Pro Unlimited using my American Express Card and ship to my home address..."). THAT will be the "killer application" of 2002 (?), not "m-commerce" on a cell phone.

Monday, February 05, 2001

Look Who's Talking Now

Editor's NOTE: This is a moldie oldie that I pulled from a text dump archive. None of the links will work anymore (or 99% won't) - but the names and companies have NOT changed.

Whoa - I can't believe how fast time flies! ItÕs been quite a while since my last column... For those of you who read this column (bless you all!) thanks for your patience!

A lot has happened since the last time we spoke:

  • My wife, Brenda and I had TWINS a boy, Brennan, and a girl, Brooke (yes, I know, 4 B's!)
  • I've discovered the JOYS (and raw speed) of SQL-based databases coupled with a web front-end
  • I've discovered the TERRORS (and pitfalls) of SQL-based databases coupled with a web front-end
  • I missed my first MacWorld in 6 years (by choice)
  • ClickWare un-merged with Stratisoft

Being a dad is a trip. It's really been "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" - and I'm less than a year into it. It's changed me as a husband. It's changed me as a businessman. It's changed me as person.

Now, prior to this whole experience, I knew about the birds and the bees - but I simply had NO IDEA how complex the entire ordeal of having a SINGLE baby was - not to mention having twins. Having a baby does very strange things to a person. For example, prior to my wife (and I) being pregnant (well...more her than I), I have probably used the word "vaginal" about 2 times in my life, and the word "breast" maybe a few dozen. Yet during the tribulation of pregnancy, I found myself comparing notes and talking about breast feeding and vaginal versus c-section deliveries with anyone and everyone I met - regardless of the social (or business) occasion.

And then there were the books. My god. There are color pictures in those books that would make Morpheous go back to a normal day in the Matrix. I mean, for the love of all that is human and decent - they don't need to publish that stuff! But, being faced with an unknown situation, we read. And read. And read. And read, and read and read. I think I have every book available on the subject of rasing twins, what to expect when you're expecting, what happens after you're expecting, what to expect when you least expect it, books on why you SHOULD breast-feed, books on why you should NOT breast-feed, books on dicipline starting in the cradle, books on starting dicipline in the womb, books on BOOKS about every issue a scared-as-hell-first-time-parents-of-twins needs to absolutely CONFIRM that they, in fact, ARE becoming their parents.

It all began on a completely "normal" day on March 24th, 2000. My wife ("I'm as big as a house!") Brenda wasn't feeling too well, so we went to the doctor's office. WHIZ-BANG he called over to the hospital to have another sonogram (our 8th) and some fetal monitoring done. We went in - and never came home.

Turns out Brenda (my wife), had been in labor for at least 24 to 48 hours. Funny, not how we pictured it. They check her in to a private room, hooked her up with more wires and contraptions than a server farm and then left and said "'s all up to the babies, honey...". Well, sort of.

The fetal monitor was whipping up and down (like an EKG machine used on Squad 51) and after a while, I recognized those little "spikes" as the contractions. The bigger the spike, the bigger the contraction. The bigger the contraction, the more pain. The more pain, the less feeling I had in my left hand from my wife squeezing down with a super human vise grip. The doctors then decided that it would be a good thing to try to inhibit the labor (stop the contractions) to see if they could get the babies to stay in their mommy for a couple of more days. They started an IV, and introduced some heavy-metal chemical.

Then the barfing started. Not just any old barfing. I mean the really nasty, "I've been drinking Tequila shots for two days and want to curl up next to the toilet", gut-wrenching puking. The nurse was great - she gave me 6 kidney-shaped, pink plastic bowels to catch the vomit (that I had to rinse and re-use - only $20 each!). I STILL have a hard time eating jello and diced carrots...

Somehow, we made it through the night.

At 9:00am the doctor called to say that "today was the day" and that he'd be there in the next hour to perform a c-section. WOW. This WAS it. The next hour was a blur: harried cell phone calls to family, seeing Brenda wheeled out on a gurney to "prep", my family showing up, her family showing up, putting on "one size fits all" green paper surgical clothes... and then... waiting. Pacing. Waiting. Pacing.

Finally, The Moment had arrived... "Mr Cusick? Please follow me..."

I don't know what I expected, but I KNOW I didn't expect what I saw. There was a fairly large room with TONS of people in it (2 teams of 2 nurses and a doctor [one for each baby], 2 incubators, 2 surgeons, 2 nurses, my two sister in-laws [one on video and one on still camera], machines everywhere, and my poor wife hands strapped in a cross shape and barely conscience. As soon as I got in there and pulled up my surgical mask, a radio started, I sat down to hold Brenda's hand, saw the laser start up and smelled the first incision.

I am WAY out of my depth here.




"Here comes baby A - the boy!" The first team of three spring into action. I hear a nurse say "...he's not breathing..." Frantic activity to my right. "Here comes baby B..." The second team appears out of thin air. I hear a small, muffled cry to my right, and a small muffled cry to my left.

Freeze frame. Tears. Terror. Joy. Fear. Love. Compassion.

"...Daddy - do you want to cut the cord?"


"Do you want to cut the cord?"

"Ummmmm... OK." Snip. My Son. Brennan. 4 pounds 15 ounces. Snip. My Daughter. Brooke. 5 pounds even.

They put the babies into a plexiglass incubator and were going to take them away without even showing Brenda. That is, until one of the nurses said "NO. She needs to see them, just for a second." She wheeled the incubator over to Brenda and briefly held up each baby (5 seconds). More tears. What do I do? I've been married to this woman for 10 years - in love with her far longer - and yet my children were being carted away. I stayed until Brenda told me to go with the babies.

They stayed in the hospital for the 10 longest days of my life. Everything was touch-and-go. We rejoiced at each additional ounce they ate, at even heart rates, un-assisted breathing. Then IT came. The day we got to bring them home.

Tiny, tiny babies who have been cared for 24 hours a day by 4 shifts of trained professionals are now left in the care of new parents whose puppy peed inside until it was 10 months old. Two completely helpless PEOPLE who are dependent for their every need on a mommy who can't yet walk right and a daddy who has absolutely no idea what he's doing. Yet, in the end, we got through it. Faced it head-on. 14-16 bottles and 14-18 diapers per day. Every day. Including weekends. At the end of the first three months, we had gone through over 1,500 diapers.

We're now on to the new joys of military crawling, saying "Da Da" and "Ma Ma" and teething. They change every day. They recognize me in the morning. They fall asleep in my arms at night. It's the hardest, most wonderful thing I've ever experienced.

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