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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Last Week Lulu Visited Cars Land in Disneyland in California

Last week Lulu went to an ALA Convention in Anaheim CA. There are a few other things to see there - like Disneyland!

Our neighbor Fred gave us a few old ticket booklets and complimentary passes to Disneyland that had dates in the 1950s on them. Believe it or not - Disney gave Lulu a one-day park hopper pass. The people at the ticket book had never seen such old tickets - but they scanned the tickets - and they were legit.

Her favorite stop was "Cars Land." The entire park is based on the "cars" movie series. Much of the action is centered around Radiator Springs - a pretend city where cars live along Route 66.

The Sound of Music - Front Row in 2008

Lulu's favorite movie of all time is "The Sound of Music." We were in Vermont in May and we had to take a side trip to Stowe to see the Von Trapp Lodge. When the family left Austria they bought a place in the Mountains of Vermont because it reminded them of back home.

The resort is still operated by the youngest son.

In 2008 - on our first trip to the London FSU Study Center - I took Lulu on a surprise visit to see the play. I was able to land a couple front row seats at the last minute. The play was great but my favorite part was reading about the girl that played the lead. The television was doing a documentary on here and it said that she ride her motorcycle to the theatre every night and parks is in the back right next to the stage door. As we were leaving the theatre I went to find the cycle - there it was. This was no little Vespa - it was a crotch rocket.

We sat in the front row - we could see the conductor during the whole play - she was a trip in herself - she really impressed me.

Lulu did not like that I was taking a few videos - I had my camera hidden down by my lap. Today while looking at some photo bucket pictures - I found a video I posted there. Here it is -

Notice my knee in almost the whole video.

At the end of the 6 week course - Lulu's students wrote a song about her and their trip to London - set to The Sound of Music theme. What brownies!  :-) The show was playing at the London Paladium made famous as the place where the Beatle first played London.

London Is Calling - We Leave Tomorrow

Last summer - Lulu's class took a tour of the Olympic Park. Here is the class in front of the Olympic Stadium.

Tomorrow at 5 PM we leave Tallahassee on our long journey to London via Atlanta.

This year we will be stay in England 5 weeks - the first 3 weeks while Lulu teaches her course for FSU - then 2 more weeks with the family enjoying the Olympics.

During the Olympics we will be staying at 12A Bedford Place. You can google it to see that we are right near the main transportation center going out to the Olympic Park. If I were a golfer - I could hit the British Museum with a 9 iron from our apartment.

Lulu has a class of 12 students this year from all over the country. They will be stay at the FSU Study Center on Great Russell Street. This year's classes will include a side train trip to Paris passing under the English Channel in the tunnel.

During the last 2 weeks - our whole family is coming to stay in our apartment. We hope to score some great tickets to some of the Olympic games.

I hope you following along on this page -

Friday, June 29, 2012


It is a rather short 1994 Dodge Ram 250 chassis. We will paint the running boards the same as the body.

Sunday we fly to London for 5 weeks. One of my friends said that I would never go to Hawaii because I couldn't drive there. I guess the same goes for England. 

I just bought this van from my friends Ralph and Shirley Robinson. They were moving to Oregon with their kids and grandkids. I don't think Ralph would be angry if I told you he was 87 and this van was his family car for the last 18 years. He took very good care of it - and we were lucky to be able to buy it. Their kids lived a few hundred yards away from us and they lived about 2 miles away by the mall.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sony Produces the First Professional Pocket Camera - RX100

Sony RX-100

By  in the NY Times

This is a review of the best pocket camera ever made.
But first, a history lesson.
For years camera makers worried about competition from only one source: other camera makers. But in the end, the most dangerous predator came from an unexpected direction: cellphones.
Today, more photos are taken with phones than with point-and-shoot cameras. On photo sites like Flickr, the iPhone is the source of more photos than any real camera. No wonder sales of inexpensive pocket cameras are going down each year.
Cameras in phones are a delightful development for the masses. If you have your camera with you, you're more likely to take photos and more likely to capture amazing images.
But in a sense they are also great for camera makers, which are being forced to double down in areas where smartphones are useless: Zoom lenses. High resolution. Better photo quality. Flexibility and advanced features. That's why, even if sales of pocket cameras are down, sales of high-end cameras are up.
Now you know why the time is ripe for the new Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100. It's a tiny, pants-pocketable camera that will be available in late July for the nosebleed price of $650.
Or, rather, won't be available. It will be sold out everywhere. I'll skip to the punch line: No photos this good have ever come from a camera this small.
The first reason is easy to grasp. The Sony RX100 has a huge one-inch sensor — the biggest ever stuffed into a pocketable zoom camera. That's not as big as the sensors in S.L.R.'s and other lens-swappable cameras. But it's two and a half times the area of the Olympus XZ-1 and nearly three times the area of the previous pocket-camera photo-quality champ, the Canon PowerShot S100. (The RX100's shiny black metal body looks exactly like them.)
A big sensor means big pixels, which gives you less grain in low light, better color depth and great dynamic range — the spectrum from darkest to lightest pixels.
A big sensor is also a prerequisite for that professional blurry background look. The RX100 easily achieves those soft backgrounds, a rarity in compact cameras.
The other star factor in the Sony is its Carl Zeiss lens, whose maximum aperture (lens opening) is f/1.8. That's the widest aperture you can buy on a pocket camera. That, too, helps explain its ability to blur the background, and its spectacular results in low light.
(As on any camera, that aperture shrinks as you zoom in. When you're fully zoomed on this camera, you're down to f/4.9. That's still better than the Canon's fully zoomed aperture — f/5.9.)
But you know what? All of that is just shutterbug-speak for, "This camera takes amazing photos." If you want to know what "huge sensor" and "big aperture" mean in the real world, stop reading and savor my annotated slide show of sample photos. There's a small sampling, and a larger one at
There you'll see what makes the RX100 such a revelation: insane amounts of detail and vivid, true colors. Hand-held twilight photos. A burst mode that can fire 10 frames a second. And macro shots — supercloseup — that will curl whatever's left of your hair. A typical S.L.R. can't get any closer than 10 inches from the subject with its included lens; the RX100 can nail focus only 2 inches away.
The RX100 is as customizable and manually controllable as an S.L.R., but it also has some impressive automated modes. They include Illustration (turns the photo into a colorful line drawing), High Dynamic Range Painting and the bizarre but sometimes enlightening Auto Crop. It creates a duplicate of your portrait, cropped in what it considers a better way. Sometimes, it's right.
And Sweep Panorama. You swing the camera around you in an arc, pressing the shutter button the whole time. When you stop, there, on your screen, is a finished, seamless, 220-degree panorama. It's the ultimate wide-angle lens. Canyons, crowd shots, Walmart interiors — you won't believe how often it's useful.
For self-portraits, you can set a timer as usual. Or use its even smarter mode, in which the camera waits until it sees your face in the frame. Then it fires a shot every three seconds until you leave the scene.
As usual on today's compacts, there's no eyepiece viewfinder, a loss you may mourn. But the three-inch screen remains clear and bright even in bright sunshine, thanks to an extra white pixel Sony has nestled in among every set of red, green and blue.
The 1080p video capture isn't quite the same festival of crispness as the photos. But you can use all the photo effects while filming. And while recording, you can zoom, change focus and even take still photos.
Sony has taken the debatable step of bringing back in-camera charging. That is, there's no external charger for the 330-shot battery. Instead, the camera is the charger, whenever it's connected to a USB jack, like the one on your laptop, or a wall outlet. Pros: No charger to pack and lose. Cons: You can't charge a spare battery while you're out shooting.
As with its role model, the Canon S100, you can program the function of the Sony lens ring. It can control zoom, focus, exposure, aperture, whatever. But unlike the Canon's ring, the Sony's ring doesn't click as you turn it — sounds that get picked up when you're capturing video.
On the hand, you don't feel clicks either. The ring spins freely, which gives it a glassy, skidding feeling when you're adjusting a setting with natural stopping points, like ISO (light sensitivity) or shutter speed.
That's not the only niggling downside. The biggest one, of course, is that there's very little room for physical buttons. All of the RX100's hundreds of functions are packed into five buttons on the back, a mode dial on top, the ring around the lens and a four-way clickable ring on the back.
Novices will find it overwhelming. Then again, it's fairly clear that this isn't a camera for novices. Besides, eventually it all makes sense. You learn to press the Fn button whenever you want to adjust a photographic setting, or the Menu button to adjust a camera-setup setting.
The camera has a 3.6X zoom lens. The Canon S100 zooms more (5X zoom). On the other hand, the Sony takes 20-megapixel photos, versus 12 on the Canon.
Ordinarily I'm not a fan of cramming more pixels into a camera as a marketing ploy. High-megapixel photos take longer to transfer, fill up your hard drive faster and are overkill for most printing purposes.
But on Sony's sensor, these are really useful pixels. You can crop away a huge part of the photo and still have lots of megapixels left for big prints; in effect, you're amplifying the zoom.
One last downside: In certain photos, when I adjusted the overall contrast in Photoshop later, I noticed some vignetting — darkened areas at the corners.
This is an ideal second camera for professionals. And it's a great primary camera for any amateur who wants to take professional-looking photos without having to carry a camera bag.
Of course, $650 is crazy expensive. You can buy a full-blown S.L.R. for that much.
But every time you transfer a batch of its pictures to your computer, you'll understand why you spent that money. You'll click through them, astonished at how often it's successful in stopping time, capturing the emotion of a scene, enshrining a memory or an expression you never want to forget. You'll appreciate that the RX100 has single-handedly smashed the rule that said, "You need a big camera for pro-quality photos."
And if you care at all about your photography, you'll thank Sony for giving the camera industry a good hard shove into the future.

Supreme Court Says Obamacare Legal

The Supreme Court ruled that the Affordable Care Act can go forward.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Sandusky - He Looks Sad

"Hey Teacher - Leave Those Kids Alone"

After being stripped of all dignity and facing a minimum of 60 years in prison on child sex abuse convictions, it's been reported that disgraced ex-coach Jerry Sandusky was further shamed upon arriving at a Bellefonte prison by inmates taunting him with rounds of the lyric "Hey, teacher! Leave those kids alone" from "The Wall." Prisoners at the Centre County Correctional Facility were prohibited from direct communication with the former Penn State coach but could see him, and when the lights went down, they began serenading the convict with the classic Pink Floyd anthem through the walls. Sandusky is on suicide watch, and his lawyers have said they plan to appeal the guilty verdict.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Model Trains At Frackville Mall

Model train layout at Schuylkill Mall shows time when coal was king, FRACKVILLE - A 5-year-old boy was fixated by the train as it rounded the track., The boy, Gavin Pabst, Egg Harbor City, N.J., was one of several people who stopped to admire the trains on the 26-foot by 55-foot display inside the Schuylkill Mall on Sunday., "The layout is loosely based from Mahanoy City to Ashland," said Wally Fetterolf Jr., a member of the North Schuylkill High Railers, a group of railroad enthusiasts., Ten members of the group maintain the tracks, O Gauge trains and layout. It took owner Joseph Webber and others 2 1/2 years to build the layout, Fetterolf said., Replicas of individual borough structures are stops along the three-rail track. A Catholic church in Maizeville, a replica of the Mahanoy Plane and the mansion of the Kaier Brewery in Mahanoy City are some of the features., "It's actually a bed-and-breakfast right now. It's on the main street in Mahanoy City," Fetterolf said of the mansion., There is even a replica of the Pioneer Colliery in Ashland., The layout of the set is from about 1925, he said, one of the booming years for the coal industry., The nine trains and three trolleys are run by remote control., One locomotive carries 25 coal cars. Many of the trains carry coal "because that was the main traffic in the area," Fetterolf said. Other freight cars carry small twigs to look like lumber., The layout has been at the mall for 12 years, but the group has been displaying it for five, Fetterolf said., "The agreement was $1 a year," Fetterolf said. He owns most of the trains that run on the tracks. Other members own the rest., Keeping the trains and set in working order takes time, he said., "It's a never ending process to keep it running," he said., A scrubber like device is used to clean the dirt and other substances from the track on a weekly basis. Routine maintenance is also done on the locomotives and cars as needed, he said., Dave Cruikshank, 51, of Reading, another volunteer, said he enjoys the time he spends with the display., "Everybody likes trains," he said., "I think it's pretty neat. They did a good job with it," said John Pabst, father of Gavin., He said his son loves trains., The group is seeking those who want to volunteer and learn more about trains. Those interested can call Fetterolf at 570-205-6275 or visit the Facebook page of the group at North Schuylkill High Railers. More information is available at, Hours for the display are from noon to 5 p.m. every other Sunday. Cost is $1.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Lulu Got Bumped - Got A Free Ticket - Got Home Two Hours Later

Lulu was supposed to get home from Anaheim at 6 PM. Instead she got home at 8 PM - and handed me this voucher worth $400 to fly anywhere on Delta.

We are having a rainy windy storm in Florida - Lulu's plane missed the runway and had to go around for another try. She said she nearly had to use a puke bag. 

Lulu Bumped - Then Put On Earlier Flight

It looks like anniversary dinner is back on. Lulu caught an earlier flight. Now ETA is 6:30. She still got the $400 bump.

Harry's iPhone

Having the New Van Painted Tomorrow

Just like this.

Lulu Just Got Bumped From Her Flight - Got $400 Voucher and Will Get Home 4 Hours Later

Lulu is at the airport in Anaheim CA. She was supposed to leave there at 11 AM and be home at 6 PM. She volunteered to give up her seat.

They later told her they did not need her seat - so she got on the plane. When she got inside the plane they had too many passengers. The attendant asked her again if she would give up her seat.

So now she has 5 more hours to spend in LA - and she has $400 for her troubles. What a wonderful 41st anniversary present!  :-)   Oops I must put this here  :-(

We were schedule to go out to dinner tonight - will have to do it tomorrow.

Lulu Sees Stephen King In Concert Tonight

Stephen King and his rock band - his final performance - tonight

For the last two years - Lulu has been an officer of the American Association of School Librarians - a branch of the american Library Association. In 2010 she was elected president and she completed her famous 35 state Vision Tour. Then for the last year she served as first past president.

One of her duties was to attend the semi-annual ALA conventions - in January and June.

Tonight - in her last official duty - she attended this very special concert featuring Stephen King. He is also stepping down - playing his "last dance."

As I type this - Lulu is a groupie taking a video of the concert on her iPhone. She sent it to me and I am showing it to you.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Apple’s Retail Army, Long on Loyalty but Short on Pay

By  for NY Times

Last year, during his best three-month stretch, Jordan Golson sold about $750,000 worth of computers and gadgets at the Apple Store in Salem, N.H. It was a performance that might have called for a bottle of Champagne — if that were a luxury Mr. Golson could have afforded.

"I was earning $11.25 an hour," he said. "Part of me was thinking, 'This is great. I'm an Apple fan, the store is doing really well.' But when you look at the amount of money the company is making and then you look at your paycheck, it's kind of tough."

America's love affair with the smartphone has helped create tens of thousands of jobs at places like Best Buy and Verizon Wireless and will this year pump billions into the economy.

Within this world, the Apple Store is the undisputed king, a retail phenomenon renowned for impeccable design, deft service and spectacular revenues. Last year, the company's 327 global stores took in more money per square foot than any other United States retailer — wireless or otherwise — and almost double that of Tiffany, which was No. 2 on the list, according to the research firm RetailSails.

Worldwide, its stores sold $16 billion in merchandise.

But most of Apple's employees enjoyed little of that wealth. While consumers tend to think of Apple's headquarters in Cupertino, Calif., as the company's heart and soul, a majority of its workers in the United States are not engineers or executives with hefty salaries and bonuses but rather hourly wage earners selling iPhones and MacBooks.

About 30,000 of the 43,000 Apple employees in this country work in Apple Stores, as members of the service economy, and many of them earn about $25,000 a year. They work inside the world's fastest growing industry, for the most valuable company, run by one of the country's most richly compensated chief executives, Tim Cook. Last year, he received stock grants, which vest over a 10-year period, that at today's share price would be worth more than $570 million.

And though Apple is unparalleled as a retailer, when it comes to its lowliest workers, the company is a reflection of the technology industry as a whole.

The Internet and advances in computing have created untold millionaires, but most of the jobs created by technology giants are service sector positions — sales employees and customer service representatives, repairmen and delivery drivers — that offer little of Silicon Valley's riches or glamour.

Much of the debate about American unemployment has focused on why companies have moved factories overseas, but only 8 percent of the American work force is in manufacturing, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job growth has for decades been led by service-related work, and any recovery with real legs, labor experts say, will be powered and sustained by this segment of the economy.

And as the service sector has grown, the definition of a career has been reframed for millions of American workers.

"In the service sector, companies provide a little bit of training and hope their employees leave after a few years," says Arne L. Kalleberg, a professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina. "Especially now, given the number of college kids willing to work for low wages."

By the standards of retailing, Apple offers above average pay — well above the minimum wage of $7.25 and better than the Gap, though slightly less than Lululemon, the yoga and athletic apparel chain, where sales staff earn about $12 an hour. The company also offers very good benefits for a retailer, including health care, 401(k) contributions and the chance to buy company stock, as well as Apple products, at a discount.

But Apple is not selling polo shirts or yoga pants. Divide revenue by total number of employees and you find that last year, each Apple store employee — that includes non-sales staff like technicians and people stocking shelves — brought in $473,000.

"These are sales rates for a consulting company," said Horace Dediu, an analyst who blogged about the calculation on the site Asymco. Electronics and appliance stores typically post $206,000 in revenue per employee, according to the latest figures from the National Retail Federation.

Even Apple, it seems, has recently decided it needs to pay its workers more. Last week, four months after The New York Times first began inquiring about the wages of its store employees, the company started to inform some staff members that they would receive substantial raises. An Apple spokesman confirmed the raises but would not discuss their size, timing or impetus, nor who would earn them.

But Cory Moll, a salesman in the San Francisco flagship store and a vocal labor activist, said that on Tuesday he was given a raise of $2.82 an hour, to $17.31, an increase of 19.5 percent and a big jump compared with the 49-cent raise he was given last year.

"My manager called me into his office and said, 'Apple wants to show that it cares about its workers, and show that it knows how much value you add to the company, by offering a bigger raise than in previous years,' " Mr. Moll recalled.

Though a significant increase, Mr. Moll's new salary of about $36,000 puts him on the low side of the wage scale at the other large sellers of Apple products, AT&T and Verizon Wireless, both of which offer commissions to sales staff at their stores.

In other areas, Apple has been a leader. Stores in a variety of fields have adopted the company's retail techniques, like the use of roving credit-card swipers to minimize checkout lines, as well as the petting-zoo layout that encourages customers to test-drive products.

But Apple's success, it turns out, rests on a set of intangibles; foremost among them is a built-in fan base that ensures a steady supply of eager applicants and an employee culture that tries to turn every job into an exalted mission.

This is why Apple can do something unique in the annals of retailing: pay a modest hourly wage, and no commission, to employees who typically have college degrees and who at the highest performing levels can move as much as $3 million in goods a year.

"When you're working for Apple you feel like you're working for this greater good," says a former salesman who asked for anonymity because he didn't want to draw attention to himself. "That's why they don't have a revolution on their hands."

These true believers skew young, as anyone who has ever set foot in an Apple Store knows. And the relative youth of this work force helps explain why people are likely to judge the company by a different set of standards when it comes to wages, says Paul Osterman, a professor at M.I.T.'s Sloan School of Management.

"It's interesting to ask why we find it offensive that Wal-Mart pays a single mother $9 an hour, but we don't find it offensive that Apple pays a young man $12 an hour," Mr. Osterman said. "For each company, the logic is the same — there is a line of people eager to take the job. In effect, we're saying that our value judgments depend on the circumstances of the employee, not just supply and demand of the labor market."

Twenty-two-year-olds also tend to be more tolerant of the Apple Store's noise and bustle, yet these days some former employees describe a work environment that was too hectic and stressful, thanks in large part to the runaway popularity of the iPhone and iPad.

Managers often tell new workers that they hope to get six years of service, former employees say. "That was what we heard all the time," says Shane Garcia, a former Apple Store manager in Chicago. "Six years." But the average tenure is two and a half years, says a person familiar with the company's retention numbers, and as foot traffic has increased, turnover rates in many stores have increased, too. Internal surveys at stores have also found surprising dissatisfaction levels, particularly among technicians, or "geniuses" in Apple's parlance, who work at what is called the Genius Bar. Apple declined requests for interviews for this article. Instead, the company issued a statement:

"Thousands of incredibly talented professionals work behind the Genius Bar and deliver the best customer service in the world. The annual retention rate for Geniuses is almost 90%, which is unheard-of in the retail industry, and shows how passionate they are about their customers and their careers at Apple."

That 90 percent figure sounds accurate to Mr. Garcia, who quit last July after four years with the company, overwhelmed by the work and unable to mollify employees and customers alike. Plenty of technicians do, in fact, like their jobs, which vary around the country, and which pay in the range of $40,000 a year in the Chicago area. Many technicians, though, wanted to leave but were unable to find equivalent work, according to Mr. Garcia and other former managers, in part because of the weak economy.

The problem for Apple Store employees, they said, wasn't just the pace. It was the lack of upward mobility. There are only a handful of different jobs at Apple Stores and the most prestigious are invariably sought after by dozens of candidates. And a leap to the company headquarters is highly unusual.

Apple prohibits its staff from talking to the media, but several former employees who spoke for this article said they had fond memories of their jobs, and regarded them as ideal for people in their early 20s who aren't ready for a full-on dive into the white-collar world.

And "Apple" can be a strong credential to have on a résumé, these people said. Technicians often move on to higher-paying jobs in information technology, they said, and sales staff have a leg up on the competition if they stay in retailing because "people know how grueling the job is," as one former manager put it.

But other former employees have struggled to find work, or have moved into lateral jobs at other companies. And even those who used Apple as a launching pad described a gradual evolution, from team player to skeptic, as they discovered that there was a gap between what the job appeared to be (kind of hip) and what it was (frenetic and in many cases a dead end).

Kelly Jackson, who was a technician at an Apple Store in Chicago, was thrilled when she was hired two years ago. But she said she was even happier when she quit a year later, having found the work too relentless and the satisfactions too elusive.

"When somebody left, you'd be really excited for them," says Ms. Jackson, who now works at Groupon. "It was sort of like, 'Congratulations. You've done what everyone here wants to do.' "

Recruiting the Devoted

Skeptics outnumbered believers when Steven P. Jobs, then Apple's chief, pitched the Apple Store concept to his board in 2000. Ultimately, approval was given for just four stores.

Mr. Jobs hired a Target executive named Ron Johnson to help design and oversee the stores. He in turn hired eight people, one of whom was Denyelle Bruno, then an executive at Macy's West. When she was first approached, she said, she was told next to nothing about the work.

That did not daunt Ms. Bruno, now an executive at Peet's Coffee.

"I had grown up using Macs, and if it involved Apple and I could be involved," she said, "it made me feel important."

Ms. Bruno was one of the first hard-core Apple fans hired for the nascent chain. Many others would follow, and part of her job was to help recruit them. Initially, that involved walking into stores, including those operated by Sprint and AT&T, and scouting out promising employees.

Such solicitations were unnecessary after the first two stores opened, on May 19, 2001, in McLean, Va., and Glendale, Calif. Soon, so many people wanted to work at the stores that Mr. Johnson would compare applicants-to-openings ratios and boast that it was harder to land a job at an Apple Store than to get into Stanford, his alma mater.

Those applicants have for years submitted résumés through the company's site. The time-intensive part, former managers say, is finding the right people amid the pile, and the candidates of choice are affable and self-directed rather than tech-savvy. (The latter can be taught, is the theory, while the former is innate.) The vetting has not changed much. It often starts with an invitation to a seminar, held in a conference room at a hotel.

The culling begins before the seminar starts.

"They turn away people who are three minutes late," says Graham Marley, who attended his seminar in a hotel in Dedham, Mass., in 2009. "My dream my whole life was to work for Apple and suddenly, you can," he said. "You've always been an evangelist for Apple and now you can get paid for it." One manager said it was common for people offered jobs to burst into tears. But if the newly hired arrive as devotees, Apple's training course, which can range from a few days to a few weeks, depending on the job and locale, turns them into disciples.

Training commences with what is known as a "warm welcome." As new employees enter the room, Apple managers and trainers give them a standing ovation. The clapping often bewilders the trainees, at least at first, but when the applause goes on for several lengthy minutes they eventually join in.

"My hands would sting from all the clapping," says Michael Dow, who trained Apple employees for years in Providence, R.I.

There is more role-playing at Core training, as it's known, this time with pointers on the elaborate etiquette of interacting with customers. One rule: ask for permission before touching anyone's iPhone.

"And we told trainees that the first thing they needed to do was acknowledge the problem, though don't promise you can fix the problem," said Shane Garcia, the one-time Chicago manager. "If you can, let them know that you have felt some of the emotions they are feeling. But you have to be careful because you don't want to lie about that."

The phrase that trainees hear time and again, which echoes once they arrive at the stores, is "enriching people's lives." The idea is to instill in employees the notion that they are doing something far grander than just selling or fixing products. If there is a secret to Apple's sauce, this is it: the company ennobles employees. It understands that a lot of people will forgo money if they have a sense of higher purpose.

That empowerment is important because aspiring sales employees would clearly be better off working at one of the country's other big sellers of Apple products, AT&T and Verizon Wireless, if they were searching for a hefty paycheck. Both offer sales commissions.

"It's not at all common but there are sales agents at Verizon who earn six figures," says Jonathan Jarboe, who managed Verizon Wireless stores in Oklahoma until last summer. Several former Verizon Wireless managers said that annual pay ran from $35,000 up to $100,000 in rare cases, with the sweet spot in the $50,000 to $60,000 range.

At Apple, the decision not to offer commissions was made, Ms. Bruno said, before a store had opened. The idea was that such incentives would work against the company's primary goals — finding customers the right products, rather than the most expensive ones, and establishing long-term rapport with the brand. Commissions, it was also thought, would foster employee competition, which would undermine camaraderie.

Tellingly, Apple doesn't use the word "sales" to describe members of its sales team. They're called "specialists."

By minimizing the profit motive among employees, Apple does more than just filter out people interested primarily in money. It also reduces the number of middle-aged and older people on the payroll, said former managers. This isn't about age discrimination, they said, so much as self-selection. Generally, an Apple employee is someone who can afford to live cheaply, is not bothered by the nonstop commotion of an Apple Store and is comfortable with technology.

People who fit that bill tend to be in their early or mid-20s, the former managers said. They typically don't have children and many don't have spouses, which means they are relatively inexpensive to cover with health insurance.

There is no shortage of college graduates eager to dedicate themselves to Apple's vision, on Apple's terms. That includes people like Asher Perlman, another former technician from a store in Chicago, who joined Apple three years ago, when he was 22.

"I'm happy with my time at Apple and where it landed me," says Mr. Perlman, who now works in information technology. "I wouldn't recommend it for my 35-year-old friend with a kid, but it works for someone who is 22 years old and doesn't want to enter the business world yet."

When Work Piles Up

The iPhone, which arrived in 2007, brought unprecedented crowds to Apple Stores. The company tried to hang on to its culture, but naturally it changed, and in many ways, say some former employees, for the worse.

Arthur Zarate, who joined Apple in 2004 and later worked as a technician at the store in Mission Viejo, Calif., says his training left him with a sense of ownership and pride. For a while, he loved the job, in large part because it delivered the simple and gratifying sense that he was helping people. There were time constraints on technicians — 20 minutes per customer — but because the store was rarely swamped, he usually had more time than that.

"My customers knew me by name," he said. "That was a big deal."

He had already begun to sour on the job when in 2007, he said, his store began an attendance system whereby employees accumulated a point for every day they did not come to work; anyone with four points in a 90-day period was at risk of termination.

"It was a perfectly good idea, but the thing that was terrible is that it didn't matter why you couldn't come to work," Mr. Zarate said. "Even if you had a doctor document some medical condition, if you didn't come to work, you got a point."

Mr. Zarate, a former heavy smoker, said he was once out for two and a half weeks with severe bronchitis and was on the verge of dismissal when he e-mailed Ron Johnson, then the retail chief, who intervened on his behalf.

"I just wrote and said, 'This isn't fair. They don't look at why you were out,' " he recalls. "And he saved my job."

To meet the growing demand for the technicians, several former employees said their stores imposed new rules limiting on-the-spot repairs to 15 minutes for a computer-related problem, and 10 minutes for Apple's assortment of devices. If a solution took longer to find, which it frequently did, a pileup ensued and a scrum of customers would hover. It wasn't unusual for a genius to help three customers at once.

Because of the constant backlog, technicians often worked nonstop through their shift, instead of taking two allotted 15-minute breaks. In 2009, Matthew Bainer, a lawyer, filed a class action alleging that Apple was breaking California labor laws.

"State law mandates two 10-minute breaks a day," Mr. Bainer said. "But geniuses had these lengthy queues of customers that made it all but impossible for them to stop even for a few minutes."

The lawsuit was denied class certification in June of last year. Mr. Bainer pursued the matter in separate lawsuits and achieved what he described as "very favorable settlements" for 10 plaintiffs.

Not long after the class-action lawsuit was filed, a technician named Kevin Timmer who worked at the Woodland Mall store in Grand Rapids, Mich., noticed an added step when he logged onto a computer to punch out of work.

"This window popped up and it said something like, 'By clicking this box I acknowledge that I received all my breaks,' " Mr. Timmer recalled. "The rumor was that was because some guy in California had sued."

Mr. Timmer said he and other technicians in the store clicked the box even when they didn't take any breaks. It wasn't because management insisted they stick around. It was that any down time would slam already overburdened colleagues with even more work.

"We were all in the trenches together," he said. "Nobody wanted to leave."

With time limits, several former employees said, came another change at their stores. Technicians had always been able to spend a few hours of their shift in the repair room, providing a little away-from-customers time. In many stores, that ended. Walk-in demand for tech help was so great that when the bar was open, management at these stores decreed, it was to be staffed by any technician in the building. Repairs that could not be done at the bar would wait. As a result, the late shift in the repair room at these stores ended not at 10 p.m., but at midnight.

The pressure didn't faze everyone. Multitasking, for instance, did not bother Asher Perlman.

"I'm a low stress kind of person to begin with and I didn't find it unmanageable," he said. "I know others did."

As the crowds grew, the company's "thank you" gestures started to seem a little tin-eared. Jordan Golson, who now blogs at MacRumors, a site that keeps tabs on all things Apple, said that for Christmas 2010, he and others at the store were given a fleece blanket and an insulated coffee thermos.

Mr. Zarate fared no better at one quarterly meeting for employees. Mr. Johnson made a videotaped appearance and referred to a wonderful surprise that managers were about to spring on everyone in the room. Free iPads for everyone was the expectation. "Then the lights went down, and we had a party in the store, with games and dancing," Mr. Zarate said. "And we all got two tacos from a taco truck. That was our surprise. Two tacos."

Rising to the Top

Like many who spoke for this article, Shane Garcia, the former Chicago manager, talked about Apple with a bittersweet mix of admiration and sadness. When he joined the company in 2007, he considered it a place, as he said, that "wanted you to be the best you could be in life, not just in sales."

Three years later, his work life seemed tense and thankless. He had little expectation that upper management would praise or even notice his efforts.

Sales employees, Mr. Garcia and others noted, deal with stresses all their own. Though commissions are not offered, many managers keep close tabs on sales of warranties, known as Apple Care, and One to One, which is personal tutoring for a fee. Employees often had goals for "attachments" as these add-ons are called — 40 percent of certain products should include One to One, and 65 percent should include Apple Care.

For a sales employee who wanted to climb Apple's in-store ladder — to technician or manager, for instance — those numbers were important. And in terms of keeping employees invested and striving, so were the rungs on that ladder, something that is true across retailing.

"There was always something being dangled in terms of different positions," says Danielle Draper, a former manager at a store in Hingham, Mass. "'You'll need to do this if you want to become a creative,' that kind of thing. There was never perfection. You could always tell someone they needed to work on something."

At some point, employees either realize they won't rise, or rise as high as they can.

"The disillusionment settles in not because of pay," says Graham Marley, the former part-time salesman, "though pay is part of it. What happens is you realize that they want you to spend years there, but there is no actual career path."

An exception is the job of manager, and Apple is often diligent about elevating from within its ranks of high achievers. Though not always. After the great influx that started with the iPhone, the company started plucking managers from stores like the Gap and Banana Republic. From employees who were around in the pre-2007 era, you can hear occasional laments about the gradual "Gapification of Apple."

In recent years, the level of unhappiness at some stores was captured by an employee satisfaction survey known in the company as NetPromoter for Our People. It's a variation of a questionnaire that Apple has long given to customers, and the key question asks employees to rate, on a scale of one to 10, "How likely are you to recommend working at your Apple Retail Store to an interested friend or family member?" Anyone who offers a nine or 10 is considered a "promoter." Anyone who offers a seven or below is considered a "detractor."

Kevin Timmer said the internal survey results last year at the Grand Rapids store were loaded with fives and sixes.

"We discussed it in a monthly meeting and our manager had tears in her eyes," Mr. Timmer recalled. "She said something about how humbling these results were, that they want to fix any problems, that her door is always open, and so on."

Similar figures were found in Chicago.

"By then," Mr. Garcia said, "it wasn't a surprise to upper management because it was clear that many geniuses wanted to leave. There was a ceiling. It wasn't a glass ceiling because everyone could see it."

Mr. Garcia would eventually quit Apple, and walk away from a job that paid a little more than $40,000 a year, when stress-related health issues sidelined him long enough to put his job at risk. He had no doubts that the company would easily find a replacement.

"There was never a shortage of résumés" he said. "People will always want to work for Apple."

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Where Are You Going Lulu? "I'm Going to Disneyland"

Lulu on the way to Anaheim

In one of her last acts as an officer of the AASL/ALA - Lulu is going to the  convention in Anaheim CA.

At 5 AM - Lulu drove the "new" van to the airport. She is flying to Anaheim via Atlanta. She was just notified that she was bumped up to first class for the first leg of the trip. She will return to Tallahassee on Sunday.

While at the convention - Lulu plans to visit Radiator Springs - the new Disneyland  "Cars" amusement park.

This is Lulu's last warmup trip before her adventure in London from July 1st to August 8th. All of our family will be staying with us in London for the Olympics. Of course the first three weeks - Lulu will have to teach her multi-media course.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Ed Paperman Dies

Ed Paperman - picture stolen from Don Serfass

Edward W. Paperman, 65, of Tamaqua, died Friday at the Hospital of The University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, where he was a patient for several months. 

He was born Oct. 25, 1946, a son of the late Georgine Kaplan Paperman and Barney Paperman.

A 1964 graduate of Tamaqua Area High School, he attended Penn State University and was a graduate of McCann School of Business.

Ed resided in Hometown, with his wife, Peggy Paperman, and was the owner of the popular store, We R Cigarettes, Tamaqua.

Ed was well known in the area for his involvement in the community. He was an active member of the Chamber of Commerce, American Hose Company, American Legion and the Elks. 

An avid sports fan, he was coach and referee for the CYO and wrote a sports column for the Evening Courier/Times News.

All who knew Ed will miss his sparkling personality and spontaneous sense of humor.

Aside from his mother and father, he was preceded in death by his maternal and paternal grandparents; and a sister, Margaret, who died at birth.

He is survived by his wife, Peggy Paperman; stepdaughters, Marni Reid and Cara Lombardo; grandchildren, Rose Reid and Lance Price; sister and brother-in-law, Susan and Roger Miller, Brockton; mother-in-law, Rose Mulhern, Hometown; sister-in-law, Carol Flynn, Wilkes Barre; brother-in-law Paul Mulhern, Tamaqua; and aunts, uncles and cousins.

Friends may call from 2 to 4 p.m. and from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at Lamar Christ Funeral Home, Hometown. The funeral service will be held at the convenience of the family. The family requests donations be made to the Clyde F. Barker Penn Transplant House, 3940 Spruce St., Philadelphia, PA 19104, a convenient guest house for transplant patients, their families and caregivers.

Friday, June 15, 2012

My First Car - a 1965 Honda Supercub

In 1965 I was 17 years old. I was in 11th grade. I worked for $2 a day delivering milk door to door for Heisler's Dairy. 

The Beach Boys were singing about taking Rhonda for a ride on a Honda. 

I bought a brand new 1965 Honda Supercub for $225. I rode it for 2 years and sold it for $150. It had a 49cc four-cycle engine. It had a 3 speed foot shifter with automatic clutch. Honda claimed 200 miles per gallon. I never found out because the tank could not hold one gallon. It had a manual choke and kick starter. It hauled two people at 43 mph tops going down a hill with a tail wind.

It was purchased at Lutz's Cycle Shop in Still Creek. My first ride on one was when Jack Laughlin opened a rental shop along the railroad in downtown Tamaqua. For $2.50 an hour - you could enjoy the wind in your hair and bugs in your teeth.

Today - I saw the above ad from Columbus OH. A guy has two of them - 1965 Honda Supercubs. They are restored - he wants $1000 each. What a nice Father's Day present they would make  :-)

The New MacBooks

MacBook, a Point Shy of Perfect

If you could design your dream laptop, how would you describe it?
Superfast. Superthin. Superlight. Superlong battery life. Immense storage. Enough memory to keep lots of programs open at once. Stunning screen, comfortable keyboard, terrific sound. Fast start-up, rugged body, gorgeous looks.
And, of course, inexpensive.
The new Apple laptop that went on sale Monday hits an impressive number of those high notes in one radical swoop. As you might guess, the one it misses by the biggest margin is "inexpensive."
Then again, the new 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display is intended for professionals — photographers, video editors, musicians and other people whose laptop is the heart of everyday work. If they can scrounge up $2,200 (for the base model) to $3,750 (for the died-and-gone-to-heaven model), they'll be well rewarded.
And if the early online reaction is any indication, a lot of them are already scrounging — if they're not too busy mopping the drool from their chins.
It's been four years since Apple last redesigned its laptops. In that time, a funny thing happened to the computer industry: the MacBook Air. It's a crazy thin aluminum wedge, two-thirds of an inch at its thickest point, that weighs very little, starts up very quickly and turns a lot of heads.
Apple achieved those goals by throwing out some then-standard features. A DVD drive. An Ethernet jack. And, most alarmingly of all, a hard drive.
Instead of the traditional spinning platters of a hard drive, the MacBook Air has flash storage — memory chips that store all your programs and files even when the computer is turned off.
Flash storage has a number of benefits. It's rugged, because there are no moving parts. It's fast, especially in starting the computer and opening programs. It saves battery power, because there are no mechanical discs to spin. It's silent. And it's tiny, so the laptop itself can be thinner.
But flash drives are much, much more expensive than spinning hard drives. The prices are falling steadily, but flash storage won't match the capacity of a hard drive for the same price any time soon.
Anyway, despite its price (now $1,000 and up), the MacBook Air eventually became popular, and now you can get beautiful, thin Windows laptops, called ultrabooks, built on the same concept.
All of this brings us to the new MacBook Pro. Apple evidently felt that the price and capacity of flash storage had finally reached a point where it could replace hard drives in the company's pro laptops; indeed, for $500 above the base price, you can get the new machine with a 768-gigabyte flash drive. That's not quite as much storage as you can get on the existing MacBook Pro in hard drive form (1 terabyte), but it's not cramped.
With no hard drive or DVD drive, Apple could make the new machine much thinner and lighter than its predecessor, which Apple still sells (for $400 less). The new laptop is only 0.7 inch thick — about the same as the fat end of a MacBook Air — and weighs 4.5 pounds. It's not the thinnest or lightest 15-incher (the Samsung Series 9 is fractionally thinner and 0.8 pound lighter, for example), but it's easily one-handable.
Apple calls the new machine the "most beautiful computer we've ever made." The MacBook Air begs to differ. Even so, this new laptop certainly is pretty; it wouldn't even make it past the lobby of the Ugly Museum Hall of Fame.
The guts are top of the line and sizzling fast: the latest quad-core Intel processor, Bluetooth 4.0, a memory card slot and a cooling fan that has asymmetrical blades. That's to make the fan quieter, since irregular blades spread the air noise over multiple frequencies. (Wow, Apple — perfectionist much?)
I didn't sit there with a stopwatch, but I can attest that the "7-hour" battery easily lasts a full day of work, provided you break for lunch and a couple of phone calls. An HDMI jack appears on this Mac for the first time, for one-cable connection to TV sets and projectors (there is no traditional video jack).
It also has terrific-sounding, powerful stereo speakers and dual microphones. Why dual? Because dictation — talk-to-type — is a new feature in the coming version of the Mac OS, Mountain Lion. Apple says that two mikes offer better background-noise elimination when you're speaking.
But you know what? Innards, schminnards. The headline component of the new MacBook Pro will hit you between the eyes the minute you open its lid: a Retina display.
That's Apple's term for a screen with such high resolution — so many tiny dots — that you can't make out individual pixels, even if you smash your face against the glass like a loon. Retina displays already distinguish the latest iPhone and iPad models, but this is the first real computer to get one, and it really is eye-popping.
The resolution of this screen is 2,880 by 1,800 pixels. That's 5.1 million tiny dots, compared with 1 million or 2 million on a typical 15-inch laptop. It's the highest-resolution laptop screen in the world.
Videos, photos and text benefit from this astonishingly sharp screen. But keep in mind that your programs won't look any sharper until they're updated for the Retina screen. The standard Apple apps have been updated, or will be shortly: Safari, Mail, Aperture, iMovie, Final Cut, iPhoto. Updates for Photoshop and Autodesk are on the way.
Even in most nonupdated programs, menus, dialogue boxes and typed text get sharpened automatically. But in a few programs, text looks jagged and awful on the Retina screen. Amazon Kindle Reader, the Barnes & Noble reader and Chrome fall in this category. (Amazon and Google say an update is on the way; Barnes & Noble hasn't promised anything, but an update is a good bet.)
That wait-for-updates business doesn't add up to much of an objection to this dream machine. But other disappointments may.
For example, this laptop has only two USB jacks. True, they're combination USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 — you can plug in either kind of gadget, and the laptop automatically gives you the best possible speed and power. But rival laptops have more USB jacks.
As though to compensate, you get two Thunderbolt jacks, which are supposed to be high-speed miracle connectors for hard drives, screens and other add-ons. Unfortunately, there aren't many yet.
Remember, too, that this MacBook Air-inspired laptop lacks both a DVD drive and an Ethernet jack. Apple says that Wi-Fi is everywhere now, and if you want to watch a movie, you can stream it from the Internet.
Frankly, that's a typically too-soon Apple conclusion. Wi-Fi isn't everywhere, and lots of movies aren't available legally for streaming. (Ever fly on a plane? You can't stream any movies at all if the flight doesn't have Wi-Fi.) As a workaround, you can buy an external DVD drive ($80) and Ethernet adapter ($30).
Final bummer: the new MacBook's svelte figure demanded a new power-cord design. Apple's MagSafe connector has always been a perk of its laptops: the power cord attaches magnetically, so you don't drag the computer off the desk when you trip on its cord. All MacBooks had the same MagSafe connector.
Not anymore. The new MacBook (and this week's updated MacBook Air) requires a narrower MagSafe connector. Earlier power adapters won't fit this laptop (at least without Apple's $10 adapter), and vice versa — a crushing disappointment to anyone who's paid $80 each for power cords to keep in different places.
How does the new laptop fare on the Ultimate Laptop Wish List? Extremely well. It tops the charts on screen, keyboard, sound, start-up time, looks, battery life and fast/thin/light. It can have copious memory (up to 16 gigabytes) and storage, for a handsome fee.
Inexpensive? Not even close. But as with cars, homes and partners, you can't have everything. Professionals, commence your scrounging.