Bobbing for an Apple: In Pursuit of an iPad 2


That was the scene at about 7 a.m. on Saturday at the Apple store in suburban St. Louis. Scads of eager iPad 2 cravers. Bleary-eyed, but hopeful we would emerge in a couple of hours with a shiny new device (or two).

I had arrived at about 6:45 a.m., earning spot #25, which was noted on the ragged cardboard square handed to me by a cheerful security guard (“You here for a computer?” she asked, to which I responded, “I think.”)

Little did I know my tentativeness would be so well-founded.

Turns out the majority of us early-rising lemmings would leave the building clutching little more than deflated tablet dreams.

At about 7:30, a well-meaning Apple employee explained to the growing crowd that the “inventory specialist” was currently reviewing all the available stock and would join us at about 8:30 to hand out vouchers that matched each person with his or her chosen device(s). He delivered the same speech several times, moving down the line of consumers so everyone could have the benefit of hearing the process.

“That’s nice of him,” I thought, while hoping the thorough approach meant the store had substantial stock to distribute to its 100+ waiting customers. 

Then promptly at 8:30, the “Inventory Specialist” made his anticipated entrance, explaining that they actually only had three models available: a white WiFi 64GB (the device I wanted), a black Verizon 3G 16GB and another one. Once again, he moved through the crowd, repeating the roster several times so the entire throng could hear his spiel.

What happened next is sort of a blur, but I’m fairly certain he didn’t even reach customer #10 before announcing they were completely sold out.

Talk about a total mood killer.

Several in the crowd just peacefully dispersed (I’m guessing it wasn’t their first time around this block…)

Others thought this dude had some ‘splainin’ to do
– “How many iPads did you actually have”?
– “Why can’t you tell us earlier when your stock is low”?
– “How come you didn’t you get any AT&T models”?

His sheepish responses amounted to: “We don’t have control of what they send to us,“ “We’re not allowed to disclose specific numbers” and “You’re welcome to try again a different morning.

Not exactly stick-to-your-ribs answers.

But my fellow buffoons and I left the premises without incident, feeling more than a little disappointed and taken advantage of. 

I’ve read all sorts of conjecture that Apple may be intentionally stockpiling its inventory to drive demand (and ongoing publicity) for its newest, hottest product. But I find it hard to believe that Apple intentionally wants to piss off its customer base – and when 90 percent of customers leave a store completely dissatisfied, it strikes me as a real customer-service problem.

Alas, Apple ain’t talking – or delivering.

And so, I will live another day (or week/month/etc.) without experiencing the joys of Flipboard, Netflix, Dropbox, Google Earth and Twitter on the iPad.

I’ll live.

If only there were a suitable substitute 


Given the recent tragedy in Japan, unrest in the Middle East and cancellation of “Two and a Half Men,” I know my iPad envy is fairly insignificant. OK, it’s ridiculously insignificant.

But cut me some slack here. I willingly chose to delay purchasing an iPad until the second-generation device was introduced. Now that it’s here, I’m ready to finally satisfy this pent-up desire.


For the scrapbook: the official number denoting my place in the pack. 

Spring Forward? Hardly.


I think of it more like a trudge. Or a slog.

Standing at the edge of the calendar’s most excruciating week – the seven days following Daylight Saving (no “s”) Time – I can’t help but wonder if it’s even worth the hassle.

The seeds of this tortuous ritual were planted in 1784 by a well-meaning Benjamin Franklin who, at the age of 78, penned a discourse on the thrift of natural vs. artificial lighting. He was serving as an American delegate in Paris at the time, and his essay included several humorous regulations to consider.

More than two centuries later, nations around the world use a variation of his concept to “conserve energy and more fully enjoy the benefits of daylight.”

And I think it’s a load of crap.

Let’s face it, the name is really a misnomer. Since we’re actually not SAVING one single footcandle of daylight, a more accurate name would be Daylight SHIFTING Time — but that’s hardly conducive to the energy-saving mantra that the U.S. government wants to convey.

What we ARE doing is snatching 60 precious minutes from a sacred weekend while confusing our bodies, minds, children and pets, along with certain clocks, phones and computers.

Several recent studies have called into question the actual energy-saving benefits of DST, especially if you factor in the increased use of air conditioning in the evenings (particularly in southern climates).

And we ought to consider the added health concerns of sleep deprivation, heart risks and overall surliness that accompany the sudden shift of schedules.

Guess I’m really just opposed to anything that messes with my daily routine. Thus, my insurgence will be on public display in the form of massive yawns, increased irritability and a general strung-out persona.

But this year, I’ve also decided to take a more positive, productive step by creating a calendar to count down to November 6. That’s the date, of course, when we revert back to STANDARD time.


Penny From Heaven


At first I thought it was junk mail. It had that mass-mailer look and bore the logo of AT&T (an entity known to distribute its share of direct marketing pieces.)

But then I noticed those two magical words on the envelope — “Accounts Payable” — and my eyes lit up with dollar-sign dreams. 

Might I have overpaid one of my bills or earned a generous rebate, I wondered?

I tore open the envelope with reckless abandon and discovered the icy truth: it was a check for .01. That’s right, one penny. A single Abraham Lincoln.

Listen on Posterous

These clowns spent many pennies to print and mail a check to me for a single penny.

Given that I receive two separate invoices from AT&T each and every month, I have to wonder why they didn’t just deduct a cent from one of my next bills.

Maybe they were afraid I would have demanded a full cash payout instead.

Apparently, my logic is different from that of AT&T, as I will not be spending many pennies in gas to visit my local bank and cash my silly little check.

I will, however, drop it into my silly little recycling bin. Seems like the most responsible thing to do.


Dodging, Artfully

Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?


I’m not really sure. Too busy noticing the bubbles.

Which is a fairly typical reaction for me – dodging the big question at hand to focus on a largely irrelevant one. It’s one of those rare traits I share with politicians.

Whether the dodge is based on fear, apathy or classic avoidance, it’s gotta be mighty frustrating to the person who just wants a straight answer.

Not necessarily…

I discovered a Harvard Business School research paper that explores what happens when people try to dodge a certain question by answering a different question. Two experiments demonstrated “conversational blindness” (listeners’ failure to notice such dodges). Listeners actually viewed successful question-dodgers as positively as speakers who actually answered the question they are asked. In fact, listeners actually preferred speakers who answered the wrong question well over those who answered the right question poorly.

Unfortunately, that’s just fuel for honing my dodging skills.

So, I repeat: Is the Glass Half Full or Half Empty?

Actually, I think it’s just right.

Maybe a career in politics isn’t out of the question.

Read the full paper:
The Artful Dodger: Answering the Wrong Question the Right Way.















Making a Pact with a Groundhog


I may be in the minority here, but I’m not ready to bid winter adieu quite yet. Despite being pounded by ice and snow at this very moment, I just haven’t had my fill of this pesky season. In fact, spring isn’t welcome in my home until March (at the earliest).

Chalk it up to those fond childhood memories, when wintry forecasts carried the promise of a little boy’s nirvana: sleeping in, missing school, and spending the day sledding and/or skiing.

We were fortunate to live across the street from the Assistant Superintendent, who was charged with ruling whether our school system would close for the day. As a courtesy to his (nosy and annoying) neighbors, his wife set up a system whereby she would illuminate their back porch light when school was called off. Oh, how I prayed to awaken to that illuminated bulb! (this was, of course, prior to the days of the internet, text messages and automatic calls from the school…)

Fast-forward to my adult self, when winter carries its fair share of annoyances to be sure, but still feeds my fantasies of being stranded at home in front of a roaring fire.

That’s why I’m willing to make a pact with Punxsatawney Phil, that infamous groundhog who gets to determine our seasonal destiny on Wednesday. I implore the portly rodent to “see” his shadow and burrow back underground for another six weeks of frostiness. In return, I’ll use my PR skills and connections to help restore his shoddy reputation.

Given the current storm advancing toward the Northeast, pundits say Phil is unlikely to see his shadow this year. But the odds are on my side. Since 1887, Phil has seen his shadow 99 times and not seen it 15 times (with nine years unrecorded). My fingers are crossed that dominance will continue.



Color Me Mortified


Did you hear the one about the guy who wore mismatched shoes to work?

Allow that guy to tell you about it…

Yes, I recently wore one black shoe and one brown shoe to work — on the same day. And get this…it wasn’t my first time committing this particular transgression. Chalk it up to insufficient lighting, a messy closet and a pesky absent-mindedness that washes over me at the most inopportune of times.

I am, after all, the proud recipient of the HUYA Award from my fellow fraternity brothers (in recognition of my overall cluelessness). For the unenlightened, HUYA is short for “Head Up Your Ass” – as the accompanying wooden statue clearly depicted.

Turns out my recent shoe faux pas is just the latest in a series of fashion embarrassments. These include wearing mismatched socks, having dental floss stuck to my shirt, and discovering that my zipper was down at the end of a busy workday (never knowing whether anyone noticed – or even cared).

Mortifying as these transgressions may be, I take comfort in the fact that there’s an entire website community devoted to embarrassing moments.

I do hope I’m never compelled to contribute to it.



When Typos Taunt…


I’m one of those annoying people who feels compelled to locate and publicly disclose every typo that crosses my path. If I’m being honest, I get a certain smug satisfaction in pointing out someone else’s foible. 

Seems the lexicon gods have sought revenge.

Now I’m forced to confront a big honkin’ typo every day as I pass the mail bin that bears the name of my department. Corp Communitcations” it reads  (the first “t” is silent, of course).

Here’s hoping it never loses its sting. I’m keeping this handy, just to make sure.

Joy to the World: Our Christmas Letter


As another glorious year draws to a close, our family can’t help but reflect on the numerous blessings that continue to pour down on us.

Yes, we Plotkins have much to be thankful for.

The year began with our annual post-Christmas shopping spree at our city’s most upscale mall (spending a small portion of my hearty year-end bonus). We like to think we’re just doin’ our part to stimulate the world economy…

Heather and Mike continue to enjoy a wonderful marriage free from all conflict and strife. Given all the sad sacks running rampant, we feel so fortunate to have found each other.

The kids never cease to impress their teachers and peers with their overachievements. Jacob earned the “Outstanding Math Student” award (for the second-consecutive year), and Jordan nabbed herself a certificate for perfect spelling performance. And even though little Jo-Jo is too young to be enrolled in Montessori school just yet, her nanny assures us that the little angel is starting to show signs of accelerated learning tendencies.

This year’s Plotkin vacations included Maui, Vancouver and the Western Caribbean. We also squeezed in several random weekend getaways, just for kicks.  

We’re pleased to report our fair share of 2010 home improvements as well: installing a pool, expanding our south deck, and renovating our five-year-old kitchen. With a few more upgrades, our home should truly be Dwellworthy.

Unfortunately, the year also had its share of sad news. Aunt Jessie is slowly recovering from her second hip replacement, and Grandpa Paul continues to nurse his chronic bad back. Diabetes has sadly taken its toll on poor Grandma Wilkins as well. She is largely confined to her house and walks with a cane. 

We were so grateful to hear the recent news that cousin Jesse successfully completed his rehab program, and we remain hopeful that the third time will indeed be a charm.

On the charitable front, we donated several trash bags of gently worn clothes to Goodwill, and several of us spent nearly 90 minutes volunteering at the local Salvation Army soup kitchen. Sometimes it can be so gratifying to give to those who are less fortunate.

We’re especially thankful to you, our cherished family and friends, for your tireless love and support. May you join us in pausing to remember the true reason for the season.

Lotsa Plotkin Love




Death to the Happy Meal


In case you missed this important development amid last week’s election hoopla, the city of San Francisco has just banned the Happy Meal.

It’s true – the SF Board of Supervisors has put a stop to those death boxes marketed by McDonald’s because (gasp!) they contain a toy that may, in fact, entice kids to want them.

Seems city officials deemed the calorie, fat, salt and sugar content in these meals to be too elevated for the public good. Accordingly, McDonald’s and its brethren must either adapt their kids’ fare to meet specific nutritional criteria or remove those plastic lures altogether.

I guess their logic is that kids will be less likely to beg their parents to buy a Happy Meal if it doesn’t contain a Buzz Lightyear action figure.

Childhood obesity epidemic or not, I think this action is highly misguided – and a bit frightening (in the slippery slope sense of the word.)

But while they’re in Gestapo mode, our government friends in the city by the bay might also consider enacting bans on the following activities immediately:

Trick or treating  [a needless ritual whose entire goal is to gather – and ingest – as many empty calories as possible]

Backyard football  [everything’s fun until someone gets paralyzed]

Hairstyles exceeding the shoulder region  [far too distracting to others and a potential tangling nightmare]

Neighborhood ice cream trucks  [menacing mobile marketers of bomb pops and other frozen evil]

Sleeping past 8 a.m.  [let’s face it, only sloths sleep in]

Casual kissing  [unless, of course, you want to expose yourself to herpes, hepatitis, trench mouth and a host of other communicable diseases]

Coloring outside the lines  [an obvious gateway to nonconformity and lawlessness]

Lighting candles after dark  [these wax infernos are just one enormous fire hazard]

Midnight snacks  [cereal after noon is completely irresponsible and unnecessary]

Wearing Crocs  [they just aren’t appropriate fashion statements for anyone at anytime]