Advice for the Clueless: Email is Not the Same as Telephone Call

I hope “Advice for the Clueless” doesn’t become a regular series. I’m trying to keep things positive but at the same time perhaps I can help someone.

A few weeks ago I mentioned here on the blog that we’re taking an Alaskan cruise this summer. We’re really excited and are definitely looking to learn more about Alaska. Part of the reason for posting on the blog is to see what kind of advice we might get. So, I am not adverse to input.

That said, the delivery mechanism matters and not all media are created equal.

A few days ago I received a phone call at work. Here’s how it went.

Kevin: Hello.
Caller: I hear you want to know about Alaska.
Kevin: What?
Caller: You posted on your blog about Alaska. I am from Alaska, so I thought I’d give you a call.
(long pause… ponders response while at work…)
Kevin: (sarcastically) Really?
Caller: What? You don’t want to learn more about Alaska? Why else would you blog about it? I was going to email but I thought I’d phone instead.
Kevin: Look, I am at work and don’t have time to talk. And a phone call is really different than email.
Caller: What do you mean?
Kevin: If you don’t know I can’t help. (hang up)

I’ve thought about this call. The caller sounded young. But I am trying to figure out what generation, young or old, would equate a telephone call with an email.  The caller did himself no favors by not introducing himself, or by asking if this was a good time to talk (hint: when you call somone you know to be an adult at 3 pm local time you should expect they might be at work…).

Differences between Email and Phone:

Email Phone
I can ignore if I am busy working (or playing) Even if I don’t answer I still am interrupted
Take the time for thoughtful, well-reasoned replies Every call is an impromptu speaking opportunity
If you say something stupid I can forward it to your friends and enemies Recording phone calls without permission is a felony
Have to come up with eloquent wording to “flame” you I CAN RAISE MY VOICE AND YELL
You won’t notice banging my keyboard in frustration Slamming my phone hurts your ears
Nice way to introduce yourself to someone you don’t know If I don’t know you I am going to think this is a telemarketing scam
Never need to ask if it’s okay to talk Often need to ask if it’s okay


Thankfully, there are clueful people out there. When I Twittered for email vs. telephone advice I got some nice responses.

As a visual learner, I greatly prefer email. For business, you should only phone if time sensitive, otherwise, use email. Also, email can be serve as a handy record of a conversation, especially if there is some sort of problem later on.

As a mom of young children, phone calls are inevitably interrupted a million times, with tons of distractions and background noise. Emails might be started in the morning and finished twelve hours later, but at least they are clearer and easier to understand for the recipient.

I have a tendancy to hesitate and not get things out the way I like when I speak on the phone….. but with email, I can read over what I’ve written about 8 times to make sure I get my point across. Although, when you’re pissed at someone and talking to them on the phone, nothing beats hanging up on that person while they’re in the middle of saying something. :] 

I have had an inexplicable fear of the phone since I was young — despite my mother’s best attempts to cure me. . . Like Laura I like to make sure I sound as smart as possible and when i’m on the phone, that doesn’t always happen. 

Sage advice to be sure!



Email is not the same as a phone call. 

Make sense?  If you still aren’t sure, then leave a comment here on the blog. Or share your own feelings about this important part of modern social discourse.

Nabisco Classics Iced Animal Cookies – Don’t Be Fooled

One of my favorite treats of all time were the Mother’s Circus Animal Cookies. These pink and white animal cookies with sprinkles tasted great when produced by Mother’s Cookies for generations. Unfortunately, Oakland-based Mother’s went out of business last year. I really loved these cookies, especially the seasonal orange and white ones for Halloween or the green and red ones for Christmas.

Mother's Circus Animal Cookies
Mother's Circus Animal Cookies

So, it was with an unexpected surprise that I saw Nabisco’s brand new Nabisco Classics Iced Animal Cookies. These are so new that I can’t find any information about these new cookies. But there they were at my local Lucky supermarket, so I snapped up a bag and raced home to taste my beloved animal cookies.

Big mistake.

I knew Circus Animals. Circus Animals were a friend of mine. Nabisco, these are no Circus Animals.

It’s hard to express the disappointment I had. It’s not that these cookies are bad per se. It’s just that they’re not the classic cookies I grew up with. The animal cracker has a lemon taste that clashes with the icing that in itself is not as sweet as Mother’s original.

So, unfortunately, I have to vote thumbs down!

Don't Be Fooled by Imitation Cookies!

There’s hope. Kellogg’s bought Mother’s recipes and promised to return those recipes to the marketplace in 2009. I’ll be waiting with bated breath.

Have you tried these cookies or love the old Mother’s? Leave a comment.

Update: Mother’s Circus Animal Cookies are Back!

Fearless Oscar Predictions

Every year I try to guess who’ll win at the Oscars. For an amateur Oscar historian I think I do fairly well, and though I haven’t had a ton of time this year to pay as close attention as I’d like here are my picks.

Picture:  Slumdog Millionaire
Director: Danny Boyle, Slumdog Millionaire
Actor: Sean Penn, Milk
Actress: Kate Winslet, The Reader
Supporting Actor: Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight
Supporting Actress: Viola Davis, Doubt
Original Screenplay: Wall-E
Adapted Screenplay: Slumdog Millionaire
Animated Film: Wall-E
Foreign-Language Film: Departures
Documentary: Man on Wire
Editing: Slumdog Millionaire
Cinematography: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Art Direction: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Costume Design: The Duchess
Makeup: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Music Score: Slumdog Millionaire
Song: Jai Ho, Slumdog Millionaire
Visual Effects: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Sound Editing: The Dark Knight
Sound Mixing: Wall-E
Live Action Short: Toyland
Animated Short: Presto
Documentary Short: The Witness: From the Balcony of Room 306

Biggest crossing-fingers moment? If by some sort of miracle, somehow, amazingly that Heath Ledger is upset and Kirk Lazarus Robert Downey Jr. grabs the prize.


No, Disney’s California Adventure Does Not Suck

I know the headline seems like a backhanded compliment, but it isn’t intended as such. It’s just that “I Really Do Like a Lot of the Aspects of Disney’s California Adventure Park” doesn’t really roll off the tongue. 

The other day, I spoke about the changes at It’s a Small World and today we’ll discuss Anaheim’s other big construction project taking place across the plaza at Disney’s California Adventure (hereby abbreviated DCA). I’d like to discuss this from the perspective of a native Californian and yearly visitor to the Disneyland Resort since 1994.

Grizzly Peak at Disney's California Adventure Park
Grizzly Peak at Disney's California Adventure Park

Even before it opened, DCA drew ire from the Disney community but not for the reasons you might expect. It wasn’t so much for what DCA was, but for what it wasn’t. You see, Disney had floated an idea of an Epcot-style park called WestCot. But, for a variety of reasons, that project was shelved and instead they build DCA as the “second gate” in Anaheim. This upset fans who really wanted to see WestCot.  Rather than dust off an already existing theme for park (ala Florida’s Epcot), they went with an original concept that was a “salute to the Golden State.”  Geared more to adults and teenagers, the original version of DCA eschewed Disney characters, perhaps to fault. But, mostly DCA has underperformed due the lack of attractions, not the quality of them. Let me attempt to persuade you.

As a native Californian, I really like the theme of celebrating our state. Best exemplified by the Soarin’ Over California attraction, the diverse nature of the state does lend itself to wonder and a variety of themes and locales. Probably my favorite part of DCA is the Grizzly Peak Recreation Area (technically part of the “Golden State” land at DCA). The signature attraction is the Grizzly River Run, a rapids ride under the majestic Grizzly Peak. I usually ride this and although you get wet I still think it’s a blast. The craftsmanship of the rock work is exemplary and I really like the “national park” style theming. Right next to this attraction is the similarly themed Redwood Creek Challenge Trail and Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel and Spa, two big areas that continue the theme. The current home for Soarin’ is a Golden State section called Condor Flats, a tribute to California’s aviation industry. But concept art for the revised DCA park shows the Grizzly Peak area extending all the way through what now is Condor Flats. A re-themed Soarin’ building with craftsman architecture elements would be outstanding.

Grizzly Peak Recreation Area Entrance - Concept Art
Grizzly Peak Entrance - Concept Art

I also like the idea behind Paradise Pier, a tribute to the seaside amusement parks of the early part of the twentieth century. California Screamin’ is probably my favorite roller coaster and definitely has the right feel as something that was inspired by classic wooden coasters that I am familiar with, like The Giant Dipper in Santa Cruz. I also like some of the “carnival” rides like The Golden Zephyr, Mulholland Madness, The Orange Stinger, and The Sun Wheel.  There are lots of thrills in these rides, certainly on par with D tickets at other Disney parks. 

“But wait Kevin” you might say. “Where is the ‘imagineering’ with those attractions? Aren’t they just ‘cookie-cutter’ attractions?”  Yes. And no. The ride systems are no unique, but I think the theming of The Orange Stinger, Sun Wheel, and the Golden Zephyr are actually well done with the overall look of the Paradise Pier area. It’s true that Mulholland Madness could use something more imaginative, however.

All of which brings us to the changes currently underway at Paradise Pier. First, the entire Paradise Bay is drained to install a fountain-based show called The World of Color (think: fireworks on the water). This addresses a major complaint about DCA, which is that it lacks a night-time show equivalent to Fantasmic! or Illuminations at Epcot. This is a point I’ll agree with the purists on, since trying to shoehorn the old Main Street Disney’s Electrical Parade as a major “draw” didn’t really cut it. Once this show is operational in spring 2010, the hope is that nobody will complain that DCA isn’t a “full day” park. 

Paradise Bay Under Construction - February 2009

Of course, the critique that DCA is only a “half day” park is quite annoying, especially when it comes from proponents of other Disney theme parks like Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Florida. That’s a park that has a great amphitheater for Fantasmic! but I’d still say that DHS isn’t worthy of “full park” status. People point out all the people who only visit DCA after going to Disneyland Park or who leave DCA and head right over to the original Magic Kingdom. But you know what? If Epcot was a couple hundred feet from Disney’s Hollywood Studios, don’t you think you’d have a lot of cross-over there, too?

My original thoughts about DCA years ago were that there was nothing wrong with the theme that more attractions couldn’t fix. As such, in the past few years DCA has seen an upgraded “dark ride” based on Monsters Inc, a whole new section of kiddie rides based on A Bug’s Life, Turtle Talk with Crush, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, and Toy Story Midway Mania. All of these have really rounded out the quality and quantity of attractions, though at the cost of the California theme. They’re great attractions, but I wish more could have been done like the “original and only in California” attractions like Soarin’, California Screamin’, and Grizzy River Run. 

Which brings us full circle with Paradise Pier – an area that will have Disney character overlays on The Sun Wheel (Mickey’s Fun Wheel), The Orange Stinger (Silly Symphony Swings), and Mulholland Madness (Goofys…).  Maybe this will mean they’ll continue to make these rides more appealing to families (a recent addition of a double-swing on The Orange Stinger allowed my son Quinn to ride this year). At least they aren’t messing with my beloved Golden Zephyr. 

Other changes at DCA in the future include a new land based on the movie Cars – Cars Land. Three more attractions will be added, including an E-ticket called Radiator Spings Racers. This whole area looks great and while again the California theme is at the very least stretched to accommodate, we take solace that this isn’t based on an existing attraction from Florida. 

The biggest upcoming change to DCA is a completely revised entrance plaza. The mish-mash of “picture postcard” themes will be replaced by a replica of the Hollywood that Walt Disney encountered in the 1920s. This should create much more a immersive and homey feel and is one change that I really agree with.  The current entrance plaza is not particularly charming and worse the musical cues are a “greatest hits” of pop songs about California. Unfortunately the playlist is pretty small so chances are you hear them over and over again. If I never have to hear “Hollywood Nights” or “California Dreaming” again it’ll be too soon!

DCA's "Picture Postcard" Entrance

Call me a “homer” if you like, but I really do enjoy visiting DCA.

I love hanging out in the Grizzy Peak area and I might be the old adult who loves hanging out in A Bug’s Land. Both feature immersive theming that are on par with New Orleans Square or Fantasyland. I have always enjoyed DCA’s E-tickets (I’m even starting to like the stomach in your throat aspects of Tower of Terror), and think Toy Story Midway Mania really fits in well to the Paradise Pier theme.  View DCA on it’s own merits, and resist the temptation to compare it to it’s much larger and established neighbor Disneyland Park.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Disney is spending major $$ to improve the park. But I’ve always liked the park and continue to view it as a major destination for any Disneyland Resort visitor.

It’s a Small World Changes: Much Ado About Nothing

As you may know, Disney recently reopened It’s a Small World at Disneyland. Among the changes to attraction were an updated boat canal (to accommodate passengers that are larger than the ones who were around when the ride was designed in the early 1960’s) and spruced up costumes and decor. But the “rehab” also is causing buzz in the internet thanks to a couple supposedly “controversial” changes. Despite quotes like “disastrous” and “damaging the attraction’s core message of world peace,” the changes are much ado about nothing

Let’s start first with the inclusion of a new American scene, replacing the old rainforest scene that was merged with the tiki-themed room. This new scene features a few characters from a farm, along with the requisite representation of America worldwide: cowboys and indians. Disney purists bemoan the removal of the rainforest scene, even starting a protest site called Save the Rainforest. But, if the ride is supposed to celebrate the children of the world, shouldn’t the children of America be represented as well?  As for the rainforest scene, I think that’s kind of a bummer but let’s face it, the original version of the attraction had a lot of emphasis on the Hawaiian and Polynesian culture that was en vogue in the early 60s. That’s a genre I love, but I can see that scaling it back is more aligned with current tastes.


The major change that is causing uproar is the inclusion of Disney characters, in country-specific locations throughout the ride.  For example, in the aforementioned Hawaiian section you see Lilo and Stitch. In the United Kingdom you see Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. Mulan appears in the China scene, and so on. There are now 29 characters in the attraction, according to Disney. 

Purists bemoan this change, as it supposedly a crass and opportunist change meant to sell more Disney merchandise. See’s Al Lutz says “Adding the Disney characters into the ride is something that only the marketing people could love, because it sure doesn’t do any favors to the show itself.”

My take is that for the most part these characters are well integrated. There was already a scene with mermaids, so why not include Ariel? There are already flying carpets, so does it really matter if Aladdin and Jasmine are sitting on one of them?  With a few exceptions, the integration is seamless and reasonably subtle and in my opinion makes the ride a bit more fun. 


Another gripe about the characters is that this will cause families to play “spot the character” instead of looking at the dolls of the children around the world, as if this activity doesn’t already happen when families try to identify landmarks and specific countries in the displays. “See kids, there is Big Ben, so that’s the United Kingdom. And look, there are some shamrocks from Ireland!” Plus, one could argue the recent revisions at Pirates of the Caribbean have the same sort of effect, as people play the “spot the Pirates movie references” game. Where were the Disney purists when those changes happened?

The changes aren’t perfect. A few of the displays are little too obvious, such as Cinderella who sits straight ahead from your boat and close to the water so you can’t miss her. The American scene features Woody and Jesse “toys” from Toy Story; the toys are far too large and obvious and really don’t fit in the same way an actual character representation might have. For example, Davy Crocket is a character Disney could have used to maintain the “Disney-ness” without having to replace a human with a toy. Of course, that would assume kids today know who Davy Crocket is…

Taken as a whole, the changes did not bother me in the least It’s true that It’s a Small World isn’t my favorite Disney attraction, but being a big Walt Disney fan I’m certainly cautious when something he personally touched is changed (can you say “Enchanted Tiki Room Under New Management?”). I’m temped to pull out William Shatner’s “get a life” video from SNL but will show restraint about the Disney purists.

But at least for my family and me, the changes to It’s a Small World are no big deal.


Peanut Butter and Jelly in a Hot Dog Bun

This idea didn’t come because of a burning need to try something new but out of necessity: I wanted peanut butter and jelly and the only bread was hot dog buns.

But, I must say, PB&J on a hot dog bun is better than okay. It’s better than simply delicious. It’s even better than amazing. What’s better than that?

PB&J on a Hot Dog Bun is the Future!

How to Make It

It’s fairly simple but the key part is to layer the peanut butter on both sides of the inside of the hot dog bun. And, unlike a hot dog that’s too long or too short, you have the full amount of bun to play with and can cover the entire inside. It’s probably best to open the bun up really wide. I happen to like Skippy Natural Chunky style peanut butter but it’s really up to you.

After the peanut butter is applied then you pour the jelly down the middle. This is where you need to be a little careful not too get too much near the ends of the bun. Go ahead and layer on the jelly extra thick – the bun is thicker than regular old bread so it’ll handle it.

At the end it should look something like this. Then all you have to do is pick your favorite beverage and enjoy.

Peanut Butter and Jelly on a Hot Dog Bun

As I said earlier, this is the future of PB&J. My son Quinn, pictured above, is kind of a picky eater. When I first invented this he wanted no part of it. But today he actually asked for it.  He asked for it! And he ate it up way quicker than a regular sandwich and didn’t even eat around the crust like normal.

So mark the date. February 5, 2009: The Day PB&J on a Hot Dog Bun went mainstream.

Give it a try – and leave a comment to say how you like it.

UPS Pain

A couple days ago I received a package from UPS. Well, actually I didn’t receive a package because I wasn’t home to sign for it. Unfortunately, UPS seems way less inclined to offer a pick up location the same way Federal Express does (or, “FedEx” for those of you younger folks). Whenever I get a FedEx package there’s a clear note that I can pick it up about ten minutes away in Union City, in a location right off a major thoroughfare, Alvarado Niles Road. You can pick up your packages after 6 pm, which is nice since that’s after work when, you know, you would actually be available to pick up said package.

But UPS is different. They don’t encourage pick up and don’t post the address of the pick up location. But, you can go onto the website to arrange for this, so that is what I did. Turns out the pickup location for UPS was in Sunnyvale, where I work. That turned out okay, though obviously I’d have to wait for the next day. Less helpful was that I knew the package was coming from Missouri, and was “Awards Rwsksekdis” (thanks for the awesome handwriting UPS driver). 

So, I headed off after work to find the UPS location in Sunnyvale. Now part of the problem was the lack of visibility due to the winter sunset time as well as the rain. Neither of which are UPS’ fault. Unlike FedEx, the UPS location in Sunnyvale is three turns away from a major road, Tasman. Strike one.

I had even done my homework, looking at the street view of the UPS location at “1245 Hammerwood Ave“. You can check it out yourself. Anything here look like a storefront where you can pick up a package? 1245 doesn’t even exist on the map, as it’s by the corner where the woman is standing in the street talking to someone in a car. But the pickup location is at the end of street where it looks like the UPS drivers go and the general public doesn’t.

I parked in the parking lot but was told I had to drive into the other area where all the UPS trucks were going. Of course, time was ticking because this location closes at 5:30 and it was… 5:28. I ran to my car, drove back onto the street and then was directed to where I needed to go. I ran out of my car and opened the customer service entrance right when a woman was coming out to lock the door. But I made it.

I was third in line, so I had plenty of time to wait around for my time. While doing so, I saw this display. Anything look strange here?


Official Package Delivery Company 1998 Olympic Winter Games. Really UPS? 1998 games?  I’m all for not throwing away perfectly usable envelope display holders. But com’ on! Time to move on!  What’s the value of the “tie-in” promotion if it the cross-promoted event is over ten years old?

Now remember, I walked into the office right at the dot of 5:30. So, when did I leave? 5:55.  Twenty five minutes.

Two people ahead of me to pick up packages ate up about ten minutes. When I got my turn the UPS person was friendly but had trouble locating my package. By chance he asked another UPS person about it, who notified him that the package was being held in a different location, pointing out the taped up note to this effect. I finally got my package, but still. Twenty five minutes.

By now it is a rainy Friday night at 6 pm, the height of rush hour. Which meant I didn’t get home until after 7:00!  All because UPS forces you to pick up your stuff in Sunnyvale instead of some place that is actually convenient to where you live.

And the “high value” package? It was some gift cards for a spot-award I got at work. Which is why they were “locked up” in that unusual location and why of course the driver didn’t want to leave on my doorstep. Which, overall, I guess was a good thing. But UPS could learn a thing or two from FedEx at least for this customer.

Life as an iCelebrity

A couple days ago I mentioned my encounter with Justine Ezarik at MacWorld, where she was preparing for a “workout” while I was waiting for the MacWorld Town Hall to start. After snapping a quick photo for my MacWorld Checklist I went back to the Town Hall where I fell into the “younger third” age bracket (which is sad when you’re 40).

Anyway, here’s what I missed…

So, let’s review. Instead of hanging with cool, gorgeous, and tech-savvy girls, I went over to hang out with old Mac geezers who pontificated about the “good old days” when the Mac launched in 1984 and demanded a “schwag” trading event be added at MacWorld next year so they could trade NeXT tshirts! 


As bad as the decision might seem to be on the surface, I’ve got to imagine it would have been poor form to try to join Justine and company with their workout. I mean, what good would it have done except to make a fun YouTube game: “Which one of these is not like the other.”  I mean this in the least self-loathing way possible that it was good I didn’t try to invite myself into the video and, let’s face it, ruin the aesthetic.  Still, it might have been fun to watch.

Ezarik, or “iJustine” for those in the know, is the part of the first generation to grow up with “iCelebrity” as a career path. One part blogger, one part reporter, one part model, and one part sysadmin. There’s a ton of these people and while the trend is young and female it’s not exclusively women. They’re having a lot of fun and let’s face it using their youthful energy in generally positive ways. So, you’ve got to hand it to them for working hard and making a name for themselves. In fact, there’s a host of career opportunities or at least ways to make a quick buck online if you have the right look or the kind of content that can go “viral.”  Remember “Chocolate Rain?”

I’d like to think that I played a tiny part in this burgeoning world with my exploits as Kevin C. from Lip Balm Anonymous. Jeeze, Justine might have been all of twelve years old when I appeared on The Internet Cafe way back in 1997 or on The Daily Show in ’98. Of course, Kevin C. still comes out from time to time. I appeared twice on Sirius Radio in December and my interview with The Baltimore Sun got a lot of press last fall.  

But LBA hasn’t made me any money. There are a lot of reasons, mostly due to lack of time and interest. Plus, it’s hard to run a lot of advertisements on a site that’s supposed to look like a non-profit organization.

Every year I say I’ll redo the LBA site. And this year I might actually do it. Maybe I’ll make some crazy YouTube videos talking about lip balm addiction. They’ll go viral and maybe I’ll get just as much attention as Justine does.

Okay. Maybe not…