20 February 2015

AppleID vs AOL

Argh. Sorry in advance, this is a frustration rant about email/usernames. Read if you're interested in my Apple VS AOL plight.

Today, my ambivalence toward Apple as a company has changed. Usually, I couldn't care less. I don't know how to use an Apple computer because I've always had a PC. That's fine I guess. I use my iPad primarily as an eBook reader. It's pretty cool; I like it. I've never had an iPod or iPhone. Because of my husband's distaste for Apple (though he has an iPod, has had an iPhone, wanted a Macbook, and yes bought me that iPad), I have never actively sought out any Apple products. It's not that I dislike them; it used to be that I couldn't afford them. Now, I'm use to PC and Android and that's fine with me. Or at least it's usually fine with me.

Though I've never bought any Apple electronics, I've always used iTunes. I tried Windows Media among other players and just genuinely prefer iTunes. The setup is easy to navigate; the store is good. I've had some issues with songs duplicating themselves in my library or the file not being found but that was my own poor organizing skills. Alright, fine.

Well, today I got a cute email from Apple saying that my AppleID needs to be changed because "AOL will no longer support your ability to sign in to the iTunes Store, App Store, or iBooks Store." It also went on to state that if you logged in with your usual AOL email, "You will automatically be taken through a few short steps to complete the process." I figured this was a minor annoyance that could easily be fixed. Instead of using my email as my username, I'll just switch it to my typical moniker and have my contact email as my AOL email.

Nope. Apple doesn't work that way. You see, your AppleID HAS to be a valid email address. For most people, I guess that's probably not a huge deal. Just switch it over to whatever other email address you use. Here's the problem. I only use AOL email addresses. Oh sure, I used to have some yahoo account that expired from infrequent use. Yea yea, I have a school email. I would, however, clarify that I use my school email primarily for school business only. This is because school email addresses have a tendency to expire after you graduate. I don't want to lose access to my Apple account merely because I graduated and moved on with my life.

So, what are my options? Lose my account. Nope, like I said, iTunes is my music player. That's also how I install apps on my iPad or buy books in iBooks. Make a new email address. With whom? Yahoo? No, I always forget to sign in and then it expires on me. MSN? Same problem. Hotmail? Eh. Oh wait, what is that random email that I get on my smartphone? Gmail. I have a Galaxy, an Android phone, with Google written all over it. That means, somewhere out there, I have a gmail address. Of course, I don't get emails in my gmail account, except for the ones from gmail telling me the terms and conditions have changed or one of my YouTube subscriptions has uploaded a new video...and I only check those because I literally have to click on a notification and they pop up on my screen.

*Sighs* Well, fine then. I guess I'll change my AppleID to my gmail address. Thanks Apple. Thanks AOL. You guys are obnoxious.

So, I guess today my ambivalence toward Apple turned into minor frustration at their ridiculous username VS email ID setup. Will it negatively affect my perceptions of Apple (or AOL even) as a company? Probably not. But it was annoying enough to rant about on a public blog.

P.S. When I tried to contact customer support, Apple advertises an email contact. However, when you go through all their contact prompts, they distinctly refuse email contact and force you to call them. No thanks, I really just wanted to send you a whiny email telling you to get your act together and make yourselves compatible with my regular email.

16 February 2015

Memories and Nightmares - A Short Story

I woke up startled. Not like one of those minor startles but instead with a full-blown nightmare quality gasp. My wide eyes shifted between the three people leaning over me. One of them was saying something. My head hurt too much to sit up and I felt a slow warmth behind my neck.

“Emma?” he said, “Emma, can you hear me?”

I wonder who these people are. Also, why does the one up front keep calling me Emma? It looks like I'm on the floor of a home improvement store. But how did I get here? I work in an office doing secretary tasks for a bunch of accountants. It's not glamorous but it pays the bills and keeps me busy.

“Emma?” Front guy says again.

“My name is Claire. What happened?”

“Uhmm...your name is Emma.” He points to my shirt. “See, it's even on your name tag.” Another guy, actually a rather cute guy, behind and to the right of the first man, points to a nearby ladder. “A customer knocked you off the ladder because he wanted you to mix his paint.”

“But I'm just a secretary,” I mumble.

“Nah, Emma. You work here. But you manage the hardware stock; you're not a paint mixer,” cute guy says. As he says this, I see a team of paramedics weeding through the customers with a gurney and red medical bags.

At this point, I start getting scared. These people have me confused with someone else. They'll get the paramedics confused. My insurance will throw a fit. I hate hospitals and I don't want to go alone. I want my best friend. If I'm going to a hospital, I need Noah.

“Where's Noah?” My heart starts pounding as the medics start getting closer.

While first man and cute guy seem confused, the third guy who looks about a hundred years old, looks annoyed. “I don't have any employees named Noah. If you've been lollygagging on the job to flirt with some boy --”

Cute guy cuts him off. “Emma doesn't lollygag. I'm sure Noah's a family member or something.”

The paramedics show up and start asking questions. What happened? Where does it hurt? Can you wiggle your feet? I'm too overwhelmed and confused to help. Instead, I start crying. “Please, just get Noah,” I say while the strange men are explaining to the paramedics how I fell off the ladder and seem to be disoriented about who and where I am.

“I KNOW WHO I AM!” I yell, finally getting their attention. “My name is Claire Robbins. I live on Birch Street in Evanstown. I work as a secretary at the offices of Schmidt and Klein. The only thing I'm disoriented about is who on earth you people are and why you keep calling me Emma. Please. Please, just get Noah. I need Noah.” While most of that was angry and I even got sarcastic air quotes in for the word 'disoriented,' I ended in a whispered plea. In my anger, I had sat myself up. Apparently, I had hit my head well enough, because the dizziness from sitting up turned into black static-like spots in my vision.

The second time I woke up, I found myself in a hospital bed. The initial panic I had felt toward the paramedics and the hospital seemed a little silly now. But then I remembered how weird all those people were acting and the anxiety started to creep back in. As I looked around, I realized my wrist was cast and I had a bandage dangling in my face. Using my good hand, I found the rebellious bandage belonged to a long strip that wrapped around most of my head.

As I tucked the bandage out of my way, a man I had formerly missed coughed from the corner. More fear crept up as I realized this was the cute guy from the home improvement store. However, I finally had the presence of mind to look at his name tag. His name was Devin.

“Uh, hi?” I said.

“Hey Emma, you had us all pretty worried there.” As he leaned closer and kissed me on the cheek, he whispered, “Especially me.”

I guess he must have sensed my panic because he sighed and leaned back. “You still don't remember who you are, do you?”

“But I do. I'm Claire Robbins,” I reminded him.

“Em, the doc said it might be awhile before your memory comes back,” he sighed deeper this time, as if it hurt him that I couldn't remember. “Maybe I could try to help you remember?”

Silent tears fell from my face but I nodded slowly. He picked up a cell phone from a night stand between the bed and an uncomfortable looking chair. He said, “This is your phone. I'm going to pop open the camera app, ok? After a few clicks with his thumb, he turned the phone toward me. “That's the self-facing camera. See, that's you?

As I looked at the stranger in this makeshift mirror, I felt a twinge of familiarity. Like perhaps I spent too many mornings trying to hide that small scar on my cheek with makeup and long bangs. “How'd I get this?” I wondered.

“Oh man, that one was a doozy. Uh, you snowboarded off a roof,” he looked away.

I snowboarded off a roof?” I repeated.

“You don't believe me?” He wondered. Again, he looked kind of depressed by the whole situation and I felt kind of bad for him. He seemed to really believe I was this Emma girl. And he liked her; it was pretty obvious.

“Sorry, I'm not really sure what I believe anymore. I mean I specifically remember being Claire. I know about the kind of life I lived as Claire and I remember my best friend. I have memories of the crazy things he conned me into doing.” Though I gave him a slight smile, Devin frowned and walked to the window. He looked stormy, standing there with one hand on the back of his neck and the other swiping at his face and dark hair. After a few shuddering breaths, he came back over and pointed out a scar I hadn't noticed on my good forearm.

“Last year, we went hiking and you tripped over this huge rock. I couldn't figure out how you didn't see it. Do you remember what you told me?” He asked.

I couldn't hold his gaze, he was too intense. Though most of my fear had started to dissipate, I still couldn't conclude that this guy wasn't bonkers.

“You said it was my fault for being so tall, dark, and handsome. Then you laughed and threw a pine cone at me,” he recalled. With a whisper, he finished the memory, “I was your best friend.” His sincerity hurt.

He picked up a worn leather wallet from the nightstand. “This is yours.” He hands it to me. I flip if over in my hands a few times. It does look like the type of wallet I would carry. I unfold it. The first thing I see is a driver's license. The picture is the same face I saw in the cell phone's camera. The name agrees with Devin though, Emma Hughes.

In addition, the picture is obviously one of those cheesy barely-old-enough-to-drive licenses. I remembered taking this picture. I had just passed my road test and my Dad had said he'd help me buy a car after I got my license. I was thinking of all the used car shops we would navigate. I had gotten a job a year prior and saved up $3000. It wouldn't get me anything fancy but Dad said he'd pay the registration and insurance for the first year.

I pull the license out of the sleeve and notice I had other cards crammed behind it. A library card, a bank card, an employee ID from the home improvement store I first woke up in. The billfold hid a stack of wallet photos and one single letter shaped paper. The first photo was of a young girl, maybe a tween. I got the feeling she was my cousin but I couldn't pull her name out of the fog of my memory.

I flipped through the rest of the pictures slowly, forcing myself to guess at names and relationships. Until finally, I pulled out the last snapshot. As I stared at it, everything came rushing back at me in a blur of information. I started crying and Devin took our wedding photo from my hands. He pulled me into a hug as I told him. “I remember. Oh, Devin, I'm sorry.”

After we calmed down a bit, his curiosity got the best of him, “What was that last piece of paper you had?”

“It's a letter I got earlier today. Read it.” As he opened it, he started reading aloud.

“Hey Emma,

I just finished reading the advanced copy of Slamming Doors that you sent me. I absolutely loved it! You did such a good job with Claire and Noah. You must have been so deep inside their heads to get everything across to us ignorant readers. Though I had to laugh because I knew from the very beginning that you based the two of them on you and Devin. He's going to love it when he sees the dedication. I assume you're still planning to give him his copy for the big 3 year anniversary. Can't wait for the party!

Congrats again on the publication!
Love, your brother,

15 February 2015

Daddy, do you think you're going to die?

Hi, this is the prologue to the, as of yet, untitled thriller/mystery novel that I'm currently working on. Thanks for reading.


“Daddy, do you think you're going to die?” my four year old son, Jeremiah, asks. In shock, my mouth opens and closes silently while I search for eye contact with my boy through the rear-view mirror.

“No, Jer, I'm not going to die. Why would you think that?” I wonder quietly. My wife is slumped next to me, asleep after our early morning departure.

“Well, ever since Uncle Bill died, Mom's been praying for you a lot. I can tell she's worried,” he answers honestly with his small brow furrowed under a ruffle of bangs.

“I know Jer. That's why we just moved to the farmhouse. I'll always be a cop, son. But a cop here in the sticks is different than a cop in the city. It' still dangerous but it's safer than Philadelphia.”

“I'm proud of you, Daddy,” Jer whispers before falling asleep in his car seat.

What I've told him is true. There's no active threat on my life. No criminals fresh out of prison with a grudge and a black-market pistol. No politician conspiracies or otherwise crazy circumstances are following me from Philadelphia to our new home in rural Vermont. I was simply a beat cop in the city but Jeremiah is right. The death of her brother, who worked in the same precinct as me, took a nasty toll on my wife. Long after the natural stages of grief, she was still withdrawn, emotional, and constantly anxious. It took some prying on my part to learn she was afraid my fate would be the same as Bill's and long before she would be able to handle widowhood.

Cop wives are strong. Stronger than a lot of women ever really have to be. My wife is no different, she knew who I was when we married. We've had close calls before, like when a drug addled teenager decided to play a racing video game in real life. To make matters worse, the drugs gave him an indignant, furious road rage that resulted in three smashed police cruisers, one of which was mine. Other incidents occurred; other cops died. I guess none of that really hit home until Bill died.

We talked about moving for awhile, saved up some money, and finally took the leap. We bought a small fix-it-up farmhouse in our hometown Georgia. Don't let the name fool you, it's a small town in northwestern Vermont. So, this is kind of like a belated homecoming really. Except neither of us has any family left to come home to. We were both only children and lost our parents during high school. It's part of what brought us together. We have old friends out here though, like Noah, who became a cop in our hometown and helped me get my new job. He's the kind of friend you grow up with and maybe part ways for awhile but when you get back together it's as if you were never apart. In my opinion, those are the best kinds of friends to have.

With any luck, and a whole lot of faith in prayer, the serenity and peace of the mountains will help my wife heal and prepare for me to go back to work. I won't start at St. Albans PD for another week. Right now, we're on our way to a secluded cabin in Mt. Mansfield State Forest. It belongs to Noah, passed down through his family for generations. He said we could “rent” it for free. I promised to make him a gargantuan steak and grilled corn.

When we were young, my wife and I enjoyed camping and hiking in these woods. I suspect the clean, familiar atmosphere will wash away some of her fear and depression. The last year has been hard on all three of us. But I know this mini-vacation and our new home afterwards will be a life changing decision. I pray it's the best decision for our family. For my son.

10 February 2015

Running Is Ugly

Hi, this is a short story I came up with awhile ago but only just jotted down. Thanks for reading.

There's nothing good about running. Oh sure, doctors say that it's good cardio. So is hiking or biking or just about any sport that really gets you moving. But running is ugly. You dress in ugly outfits, sweat profusely, and pant like a dog. In my opinion, no one looks good running. That includes scantily clad women in yoga pants and especially topless men in short shorts.

However, my job requires me to run. Sometimes. But when it does, I have to be ready. After all, I can't let a murderer or thief get away just because I hate running. And I can't necessarily leave all the running up to my partner. It used to be that my partner and I would train together. We'd run the trails and parks around the city to keep us in shape. We'd meet up before work or after a paperwork laden shift, run a few miles, and eventually huff and puff our way home. Being the gentleman that I am, I always ran her home, even on mornings when we went before work. You can never be too careful. And in our line of work, you lose a lot of trust in humanity.

One of those days where I struggled with my view of humanity, happened last summer. We were working a bank robbery, where a\the thief killed the teller simply because she wasn't fast enough under the pressure of a large rifle pointed at her face. During the gunfight between police and criminals, my partner jumped in front of a bullet meant for me. And I am exceedingly grateful. The bullet that landed in her hip, was aimed at my head. Now, we barely run together anymore. That's more my fault than hers. You see, my partner now runs with a hitch. She has a specific lilt in her step that slows her down. Some people call it a limp. Others call it a disability; she laughs at those people. Regardless of what you call it, I use the reduction in her pace as an excuse to run by myself more often than not. But it's really just that, an excuse. And that aggravates me. I know I should be able to run at her slowed pace in penance for her saving my rear end, I still can't do it. I fight with myself day after day over this seeming disloyalty and ungratefulness. I want to be a better man than that.

But, what it really comes down to, is what I don't tell her. I hide behind an arrogant mask of speed records and lap times to keep her from knowing that she's changed me. The real reason I can't run with my partner anymore is literally because of that limp in her step. When she walks, you barely notice it. But running makes it much more apparent. And despite the fact that running is ugly, when my partner runs, it's beautiful.