Saturday, January 16, 2016

Shining, Gleaming, Streaming, Flaxen, Waxen

A long time ago, on a scalp far, far away, there once grew a dense forest of straight blonde hair.

When I was a little kid, the poofed mass of yellow on my head turned near white in the New York summer sunshine. My Mother always would comment how easy it was to spot me if I wandered away from her in a store, or was sitting on stage under the bright lights of a public school band concert. Not long after, the quintessential 1980s hair helmet formed like a protective biosphere when I entered the hygienically self-aware stage of my teen years. Cans of AquaNet and bottles of hair gel fell like spent soldiers as each long, blonde strand was carefully lacquered in place.

I got a bad rap in college for growing a mullet, which really wasn't a mullet, but rather a failed subversive attempt to grow my hair long, like some kind of neo-hippie, proto-grunge granola-age-punk. A lack of commitment to the experiment resulted in an unfortunate hairstyle equaled in unsightly aesthetics only by my inability to match clothing colors and patterns. Who says a gray and purple button-up sweater vest doesn't go with acid-washed, parachute cargo jeans and a pink dress shirt? Pretty much every member of the sighted world.

As we tumbled through early adulthood, marriagehood and parenthood, developing technologies made it easy to avoid hair envy. Nothing quells concerns over a receding hairline better than shared social media pictures of your high school friends sporting scalps more barren and devastated than a clear-cut rain forest. This guy was bald in his twenties, that one in his thirties. By the time I reached forty, I felt like the lone survivor of some horrific folicular pandemic.

Not anymore.

The turn of the century brought with it a desire for streamlined simplicity that included My Lovely Wife buzzing my hair to within a centimeter of its life. (Somehow, I still manage to achieve righteous bedhead.) Every once in a blue moon I get the notion lodged in my brain to try growing my hair out a bit. By "a bit," I mean more than an inch. Right around the time the next buzzing is due, I'll catch myself grabbing the mousse to direct my hair along its long-abandoned part. It looks pretty good, too, if I do say so myself. Then two things happen.

The first is when my hair reaches a certain length and suffers what I call the Bozo Effect. The listless and lazy hair on the very top of my head collapses under its own weight while the hair on either side of my head sticks straight out as far as it can possibly go without leaving the scalp -- an unintentional and pathetically sad Flock of Seagulls impersonation, without the benefit of futuristic music video lighting and underrated guitar playing.

The second thing that happens is I catch an occasional glimpse of what my hair really looks like to others. You see, each morning when coiffing my golden locks in the mirror I'm staring blindly at an optical illusion. Where I see a reasonably handsome head of hair, others see glistening scalp gleaming at them from under a few delicate, wispy strands. One photograph of the top of my head is all it takes to bring me back to reality.

Twenty years ago I told My Lovely Wife if my hair started abandoning me then I would buzz it off. Better fire up the trimmers.

© 2016 Mark Feggeler

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Something Rotten in the Apple Basket

I love Apple products. From the early 1980s when my friends and I ogled the black and green screens of Apple mainframe terminal hubs in our high school computer programming classes, to the sleek design and amazing sound and graphics of the latest iPhones, I've been hooked.

And it isn't just the hardware I find impressive. The simplicity and power of programs like GarageBand, PhotoShop and Pages cannot be overstated. Someone at Apple, probably Steve Jobs, years ago crawled inside my brain and understood I didn't want to have to sift through thousands of lines of coding in order to complete a simple creative task. I'm simple and stupid, and my memory sucks. All I want and need from my computer is the ability to click and drag. That's it.

Click it.
Drag it.

Another thing I've always admired about Apple is the ability of the company's products to play well with others. Sharing files has always been easy. We could toggle back and forth on our Macs from Apple to PC in the early days, until Apple finally just started working directly with most PC-based software and we were finally able to rest our toggle fingers.

These days, however, I'm not feeling the love so much as I once did. The reason is simple: email.

My Lovely Wife upgraded to the iPhone6 a few months ago and, immediately, experienced trouble with her RoadRunner email account. We loaded it correctly and she received emails with no trouble, except that no email hung around more than a day.

I hear many of you out there saying "Go to 'Settings' and change the 'Mail Days to Sync' to whatever you need it to be." Imagine me responding, with a mildly pained and sour-pussed expression on my pale face, "Don't you think we tried that?" In fact, under the RoadRunner account on her iPhone there is no Mail Days to Sync option. There are only two options. One is turning the Mail on or off. The other is turning Notes on or off.

Speaking recently with Apple Support to solve this problem was reminiscent of my experience with Honda a couple years ago. The engine in our Odyssey was malfunctioning. Even though the economy feature was properly reducing the number of pistons in use from six to four when appropriate, it continued to spit oil into all six pistons. This led to a build up of oil and scoring that damaged the pistons and required a new engine be installed. Turns out this malfunction was well-known and existed in several models of Honda vehicles from multiple years of production. Problem was Honda had yet to acknowledge the problem was their fault. The support tech on the phone kept telling me he understood too much oil was being injected and had damaged our engine, but we had no claim against our warranty because oil was not a covered mechanical part of the vehicle.

"Oil doesn't magically jump into the engine on its own because it feels like it," I recall telling him. "A mechanical part of the vehicle moves the oil from its reservoir into the engine."

"Yes, sir," he would respond. "But that mechanical part didn't cause the damage to your engine. The damage was caused by the oil itself and oil is not a mechanical part of the vehicle."

"I hope you rot in hell." Or something to that effect.

The Apple Support folks I spoke with the other day were not condescending prats like the Honda guy, but the runaround was fairly similar. They began with several half-hearted attempts to reset the RoadRunner email account they fully well knew would not work. Then they talked to me about the difference between POP accounts and other kinds of email accounts and how POP accounts, especially POP3 accounts, sometimes cause problems when being imported into iPhones. I would then restate how we had never had this problem with previous versions of iPhones, regardless of what kind of POP was POPPING over at RoadRunner, and that's where our conversations became Mobius threads that would have made M.C. Escher proud.

The most telling moment was when I offered the Apple Support tech an emotional out and she took it. I told her I realized the misbehaving iPhone was not her fault and that she didn't have the authority to do anything about it or acknowledge the possibility that Apple's hardware and software could be to blame. You could practically feel the defensive tone melt away from her voice when she said "Thank you."

In the meantime, for the first time I can recall, Apple has me thinking of trying someone new.

© 2016 Mark Feggeler