Friday, June 30, 2006

My Marathon Training Program...

This is my hybrid plan, based on Hal Higdon's Intermediate II and a lot of the comments I've read on Runner's World Marathon Forums. Things are going well so far, but I have trouble remembering exactly how many miles I am supposed to run during the workweek.

More Language Acquisition

So, I say to Noah that something is awesome and he says:

"No, Daddy. It's not awesome. It's great."

iPod Saga, Part Three

So, while waiting to hear back from Dena, I get the RMA and shipping information from a new person, Lindsey. Maybe Dena is the "bad" cop and Lindsey is the "good" cop?

Sorry you are having problems with your unit and for
any inconvenience
this has caused you. Please follow
these instructions to return the
item safely to us.

1. Please package the item with all accessories
(ac adapter/power
cord, CDs, instruction manuals, etc)
in the original packaging. If
the plastic wrap has
been broken, please use bubble wrap and/or foam
to make sure the item is securely packaged. Please
note that
you are responsible for any damage incurred
during the return shipment
due to insufficient

2. Please send the item to:

Attn: RMA #
10225 Barnes Canyon Rd Suite A112
San Diego, CA 92121

Make sure to include a detailed description of
the problem you have
been nencountering.

3. Please note that this RMA is only valid for
2 weeks. If your unit
is not received back within
2 weeks, this return authorization will be
voiding any future warranty coverage through MobilePC.

4. Print and attach your FedEx return label to your
unit and ship
back to us. Please notify us when you
have sent it out, so we can know
when to expect it.

5. Please allow us a few days to review your item
and duplicate the
problem. If possible, we will
repair the item and return it to you.
If unable to
repair the unit, we will replace it. If we do not have
any units to replace the defective one, we will issue
a refund. (If
we are not given the opportunity to
repair or replace the unit, we charge
a 25% restocking
fee as stated in the auction listing.)

6. If you would like a replacement unit sent prior to
returning the
original, please send us payment for the
full value of the unit. We
will send a replacement unit
out to you once payment has been
received. When we receive
the original unit, we will refund the
amount in full.
If unit has been damaged during shipment:

7. Please make sure to keep all original packaging.
If possible take
digital pictures of the damage. We will
give you instructions on how
to file a damage claim with
If you have any other problems or questions,
feel free to contact us.


So, I print out the label and figure I can package the iPod up and send it back the following day. Before I get around to doing that, I get another message from Dena and she addresses the Paypal dispute again:

Hello David,

We apologize for the confusion. As you mentioned, the
hold is on the transaction, not the account. While the
transaction is on hold, Paypal has taken the funds
from our account so we currently do not have payment
for this item. However, I am going to issue you a RMA
#DS062906 and a return shipping label so that the item
can be returned to us on our account. The return
shipping label will be sent to your email address.
Simply print out the label, attach it to the package
and drop it off at your nearest FedEx location or
dropbox. Be sure to package the item securely. We
will ship a replacement after receiving the defective
item; the only thing we request is that you end your
buyer dispute prior to shipping out the replacement.
Please let us know if this is acceptable.

Thank you,

They still want me to close the dispute prior to any real action on their part. Again, they are giving me an RMA and taking care of shipping, but that is a few extra dollars to them and doesn't exactly compare with the cost of sending me another iPod. Maybe they are just concerned that I am going to stiff them somehow, maybe get Paypal to refund my money while I actually keep the device or something. I guess it is possible to do something like that, but I don't know how effective it would be. And, frankly, I don't know why they continue to choose to not communicate with me through Paypal's dispute process. I can't help but think they want to keep their requests for closure outside of Paypal's purview so it doesn't negatively impact them if we can't resolve this. So, I responded with this:


I appreciate what you are requesting and that you are
working with me to resolve this. But, I have some
concerns about how things have gone so far and I do
not understand why you require me to close the Paypal
dispute. You have issued an RMA and covered the
shipping expenses, both of which certainly suggest
that you have every intention of honoring your
exchange/return policy. But, you must know that if I
close the dispute, I have no avenue for recourse
whatsoever. So, if I do as you ask and then ship the
device, you can collect the funds, never send me a
replacement, and there will be nothing I can do other
than submit negative feedback on eBay, something that
will do nothing to get my money back or to get me a
working iPod.

I will be happy to close the dispute once I've
received a working iPod, but I do not see any valid
reason to do so beforehand.


And I haven't heard a peep since yesterday afternoon. I am going to ship the device back because it is no good to me and I am confident that I will be able to resolve this, one way or another, through Paypal. But, I don't think this story is finished yet.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

iPod Saga, Part Two

If you are just joining me on this trip, you should probably scroll down and read the prior post to put the following exchange in context.

Within 20 minutes of filing a dispute claim with Paypal, I hear from the seller:

We apologize for any inconvenience. We will gladly
replace your iPod. We will email you a shipping label
which will cover the cost of return shipping. Simply
print out the label, attach it to the package and drop
it off at your nearest FedEx location or dropbox. Be
sure to package the item securely, as any damage
caused during shipping will be your responsibility.
As soon as we receive the defective item we will ship
out a replacement. For future reference, your RMA# is

Thank you,

I assume that this email was spurred by having filed the claim, but it sure sounds like they are proactively responding to my original request to the support team, doesn't it? Note that they are choosing to email me directly and to not post messages through Paypal, something Paypal suggests so that there is documented evidence of dispute resolution. Not surprisingly, 12 minutes after this first message, I get the following:


According to our records you have a Paypal hold on
your account. You will need to cancel the dispute
before we can issue you a replacement. Please let us
know when you have removed the dispute and we will
then issue you a return shipping label for the
defective iPod.

Thank you,

Interesting timing, huh? It almost looks as if they were responding to me independently and in the process of taking care of the issue, they realized that I had filed a dispute. Of course they couldn't be staging this process, right? They issued an RMA, but didn't give me a method for actually sending the device back yet. So, I have just enough to feel like this is being taken care of, but I can't actually get it taken care of yet. So, I respond back:


There is no hold on the account. I filed a dispute
with Paypal regarding this purchase. You, as in
MobilePC, should have received notice not that long
ago. In fact, you emailed me not long after I filed
the dispute, so I assumed you were contacting me in
response to the dispute itself.

In any case, I don't see any reason why I should close
the dispute until you have satisfactorily resolved it.
I appreciate that you are willing to replace the
device, but I don't have an RMA, have not yet shipped
the device back, and obviously haven't received a
working device. Closing the dispute prior to getting
a working device cuts off the only method I have for
effectively resolving this issue.

If you are unwilling to process an exchange while the
dispute is open, I am happy to forward this
information to Paypal and request an investigation to
settle the matter. I would prefer to simply get the
RMA, send the device to you, and get the exchange,
though, and be able to update Paypal that I am


And, now I wait. Let's see if there is a FedEx shipping label or if they tell me to shove it. I realize now that I did have the RMA, but that doesn't help me much, does it?

iPod Saga, Part One

A while back, I posted about how our 40GB 4th Generation iPod died and how I couldn't find a good solution to replace or repair it. Well, after looking around and researching prices, we figured that the best option was to eBay a used iPod. I wanted to just replace the hard drive in the 40GB, but getting a new hard drive was more expensive than getting a used 20GB iPod. And, since the hard drive specs have changed for each model, it wasn't going to be that easy to get a drive that I could be sure would fit properly in the iPod we currently owned.

After watching the market for a few weeks and losing several bids, we scored a used 20GB 4th Generation iPod for $112.50, plus an additional $15 for shipping and handling. The auction listing actually said "Apple iPod" and the item description stated "Apple iPod Fourth Gen. (20 GB, MAC/PC - M9282LL/A) MP3 Player". I include this because while it is all loosely true, it isn't exactly true. What showed up was an HP-branded iPod with an entirely different serial number. If I had known that, I wouldn't have bought it since it requires some effort to reformat and restore the device so that it will work with a Mac, a hassle I don't need.

We did try to use it, though. But, it was pretty clear that the device was shot from the beginning. The usual error messages, the dreaded folder icon on the iPod, the Mac having no idea what this thing is and usually not seeing it at all. I tried to make it work, but the hard drive made clicking sounds from the moment we touched it...not a good sign.

So, after trying for a few days, I contacted the support department of the eBay seller, a seller who states a 30 day repair/exchange/refund policy. About a day and a half passes with no answer back. So, in looking for other options for resolving this, I realize I can file a dispute with Paypal. And, that is exactly what I did. In the dispute claim, you can send the seller a message. So I sent this:


I recently received a 20GB "used" iPod from you guys,
MobilePC. What I did not know when I purchased the
device was that it was an HP iPod and not an "OEM"
Apple iPod. If I had known this was an HP model or
one originally intended for use with a Windows PC, I
would not have purchased the device. I only own a Mac
and plan to use this iPod with a Mac. Trying to
switch the iPod to work with a Mac voids the
manufacturer's warranty, assuming that there is any
time left on that warranty in the first place.

Despite this, I did try to find a way to make it work
with my Mac. The moment I turned it on, I got the
folder icon suggesting that something was wrong. And,
more ominous was the audible clicking sound and the
feeling of the hard drive needle moving rather harshly
inside the device when I tried to use it. I believe
that the hard drive is likely bad in this device,
something I am familiar with having had my previous
40GB iPod's hard drive die on me.

I would like to either have this device repaired with
a good hard drive, exchanged for a working iPod that
is native to Mac, or I would like my money refunded to
me. If I have to ship this back to you, I don't think
it is fair that I have to pick up the shipping tab
twice. I paid to have this iPod sent to me the first
time in what turned out to be less than stellar
condition. I don't think I should have to pay to have
it returned to working condition, something that was
guaranteed in the auction.

Thank you,

And, in the next few posts, I'll share with you the back and forth responses...

First Loves

I think Noah has fallen in love for the first time. And with an older, married woman. Audrey's friend, Kate, came to visit this week and Noah has been absolutely beside himself with interest and affection for her. I can't explain it, other than she is a great person and good with kids. Maybe he has a thing for blondes.

We've never seen him so interested in someone. He has been acting out, in a sense, since she arrived. He has been excited and loud and totally engaged. He wanted to show Kate all his favorite things, wanted her to follow him around, and made a point of telling her all his likes and dislikes. The whole experience has been amazing, but I hope he isn't going to be depressed when he gets home tonight and realizes that Kate is gone and that he won't see her again for some time.

We'll have to get him a girlfriend in the neighborhood.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Latest Boundary Crossing

One of the measuring sticks we seem to use as parents is to recognize certain boundaries that Noah has yet to cross. That is, we note that there is a line of some form that he hasn't yet gone past. It might be a fear that he conquers or a place he can't yet reach. Or, not getting out of bed and leaving his room despite the fact that there is nothing physically stopping him. After the conversion of his crib to a toddler bed, we figured he'd bust through that line immediately, but he didn't. Visions of Noah standing next to our bed in the middle of the night, or going into the kitchen to get a drink of water from the refrigerator, or falling down the stairs in the dark immediately popped into my head. But, he gave us no reason to worry until recently. First, he sneaks up on me at 5:45AM while I am getting ready to go out for a run. I'm just about to leave and there he is, just standing at the top of the stairs. I took him back to his room, got him settled and back to sleep, and left without any trouble. But, now I think we are cooked. We all slept in this morning, or so I thought. Around 6:45AM, I heard Noah talking, but it sounded like his usual sleepy calls for help finding his binky. He can find it himself and once he does so, he goes back to sleep. I closed my eyes, but woke up about 15 minutes later and got in the shower. Neither Noah, or anyone else for that matter, seemed to be awake. After the shower, I open the bathroom door to peak at the alarm clock to check the time. And, there he is, just standing next to our bed, patiently and quietly waiting for Audrey to wake up.

"Hi Daddy. I'm awake."

Yes, he is...more every day, it seems.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Landlocked, Yet Drowning

Here in Fairfax, we have lots of lakes and some small creeks or "runs" as they are called in these parts, but no major bodies of water. I guess the Potomac isn't too far or the Rappahanock either. In any case, though, not something that means one should be too concerned about floods. Except when the skies open up and won't stop dumping water out on us. We have had somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 inches of rain since last Thursday. This is just getting absurd. A good morning is one in which I don't have to bring my bags of lawn clippings back from where they floated the night before.

Friday, June 23, 2006

I Lost the Battle, but I Will Win the War

I mowed the lawn last night. Normal occurence, usual effort. Actually, it was quick this time, but I don't know exactly why. In any case, it turns out that we have a nest of yellowjackets living in a hole in the front part of our lawn. I aroused them during the mowing. I didn't see them, made my first pass, and clearly pissed them off. Then, because I am rather stupid, I thought it would be a good idea to run the nest over again, since a giant spinning blade should be able to kill any of them that tried to get out. Besides, it is my lawn and I'm not going to concede anything to them. Yeah, well, that second pass ended in me running into the street, cursing from the sting I had just gotten on the back of my right leg.

I left them alone the rest of the night, but I will soon pay them a visit with death on my mind.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Strange Disappearances

So, I leave the house for a run at 6AM this morning. Sitting on the stoop, tying my shoelaces, I drink about half of a sports drink before taking off. I'm gone a bit over an hour.

When I come back, there is a flyer stuff into the handle of our front door for some housecleaning service. I go in and get on with coffee making, breakfast eating, and all the getting ready for work and taking Noah to daycare stuff. As I'm getting ready to leave, I realize that the sports drink is still out on the porch. But it isn't. It has vanished. So, someone put a flyer in my door some time between 6 and 7AM this morning and thought it would be perfectly reasonable to take my half-used sports drink off my hands. Audrey thought maybe they were just cleaning up, but it wasn't in our garbage can.

Would you take a used drink from some stranger's porch and drink it? Would you use a cleaning service that employs people who would?

And So It Begins...

Noah has been rather "bossy" lately. Clearly, he recognizes his verbal abilities and how well he can communicate with us. And, he has a good understanding of many of the nuances and intricacies of language. Add to this the fact that he is becoming very aware of himself in terms of age and relation to other people and you get an interesting mix.

He tells me what to do on a regular basis. Like not to sing with his music or to drive the silver car instead of the red car. The other night, while Audrey is working at the sink and Noah is getting a head start on dinner, I take a moment to replace the lighbulbs in one of the lights in the kitchen. Not a big deal, really. I finish the job and am replacing the light fixture when Noah says "Good job, Daddy".

Just what I need...another person in my house commenting on everything I do.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Talent Kills

I was just wondering why all the great music artists, at least the ones I really like, have to die. Some of the most amazing stuff I have ever heard was made by people that died, either by drugs or suicide or a combination. Hendrix, Elvis, Jeff Buckley, Elliot Smith. Sure, they aren't all in the same category, but my list of favorite artists or albums would be rife with dead people.

How come people like Britney Spears or Toby Keith don't die "young"? Is it that the truly talented have too much and it kills them? Is it that whatever is the source of their creativity is also the source of whatever it is that drives them to behavior that kills them? Kind of like how genius always seems to be separated from insanity by a paper thin margin. Maybe we aren't meant to be very smart or creative or interesting as a species. That would at least explain why the planet is largely populated with halfwits and bores.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

What Did You Do?

A lot of people have asked me how I lost all the weight, but there is no simple answer. I didn't get surgery or get shipped off to some fat camp for the summer. I just had to work at it, day after day. But, there are some things I've learned and that I would tell anyone who wanted to lose weight and get in shape.

1. There is no easy solution. Period. You will have success and failure. You will wake up some days and not care and have other moments when you feel great about yourself and your progress. You won't lose weight as fast as you want and you won't always have the self-control you need, but you can still meet your goals. I lost 90 pounds by staying motivated, re-committing myself to losing weight every few months, and to being open to trying different strategies to accomplish my goal. I did South Beach, Atkins, Weight Watchers, and all sorts of wacky diets I invented on my own (like the eat a Balance Bar and then starve yourself until dinner diet). If you want to make it, you just have to keep working at it.

2. Near term and achievable goals were a big key for me. Originally, I had wanted to get down to 200 pounds. But, to stay motivated, I set near term goals for myself. I would work to lose weight in 10-15 punds increments and then ease up when I hit each goal. It allowed to shoot for something I could achieve in a short period of time, which meant that I didn't have to work at it for too long a period of time without any gratification. Then, I'd get "sick" of being that weight and push on to the next goal. This strategy ultimately led me to push back my final weight loss goal from 200 to 185 to 175 pounds. This was particularly helpful the longer I worked at weight loss since it became increasingly hard to lose weight. It is not that hard to lose 15 pounds when you are 265, eat garbage all the time, and don't exercise. Some very basic changes can make a huge difference. When you are 200, eating healthy, and working out fairly regularly, you need to have a pretty serious approach to drop another 25 pounds, not to mention some extra patience. So, break up your weight loss into shorter term goals and just focus on making it through the next 10-15 pounds.

3. The only real solution is diet AND exercise. Diet alone or exercise alone just won't get all the wight off or help you to keep it off. I lost a fair amount of weight by basically dieting, but I had to starve myself fairly often just to keep it going. I got sick of that. I needed to incorporate exercise to lose the last 35-40 pounds. And, as a result, I also had to eat more (my hunger became unavoidable) and I had to learn how to eat more without sabotaging myself. So, eating more didn't mean loads of any food I wanted, but meant increasing my intake of healthy options in proportion to each other and in moderation. And, I also let myself enjoy more treats (okay, so I basically didn't eat any when I was in serious dieting mode).

4. Drink water. It sounds simple, and it is, but it makes a huge difference. I probably drink between 75-100 ounces of water a day. At the same time, I've cut back on how much coffee I drink, from 5-6 cups to 3-4, and I will never drink any soda that isn't a diet soda. One can of Coke is 150 calories. Think about that for a moment. One 12 ounce can of Coke is 150 calories. And it has no nutritional value whatsoever. There is absolutely no good reason to ingest that stuff when it is simply sugar water. Is a can of Coke worth running a mile and a half? Is it worth getting on an elliptical machine for 20-30 minutes? Right, I didn't think so.

5. Eat your veggies. And fruits too. Vegetables are more important, though, since they carry a great deal of the vitamins and minerals that we need and don't bring along nearly the same amount of sugar with them. Fruits are great and have a lot of cancer-fighting agents, not to mention fiber, but they all have some degree of sugar. If you eat 5-6 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, but eat them all as fruit, you are ingesting a much larger amount of sugar than if you balance your fruit intake with more vegetables. Same amount of food, less sugar, and more variety. I eat all kinds and try to mix it up regularly. You'd be amazed at how easy it is to eat all the vegetables you need.

6. Whatever you are doing, it has to be for the long haul. The changes in your eating habits and level of activity should be changes that you are willing to accept as part of your life...for the rest of your life. I always think about the fact that I spent my 20s as a fat slob and that I wasted those years. Yes, I had a lot of great times. I fell in love, got married, started a family, bought a home...sure. But, I never wanted to go anywhere because I spent ten years feeling like crap all the time. I wasn't able to enjoy myself and the opportunities that I had, both work and personal, because I was overweight. So, for me, it is easy to commit to making life changes because I never want to go back. I pissed away a good chunk of my life as an unhappy lardass who ate anything he wanted and indulged himself all the time. I don't plan on doing that any more.

7. You have to pick an exercise that focuses on fat burning. The majority of your effort should be on some aerobic activity so that you can drop the weight and build up a general level of fitness. I think women probably benefit from weight training more than men do, but I've seen some men who have horrible muscle tone and need to pick up a dumbell. And, once you've lost most of the weight, you should really shift your exercise to something that you enjoy and that will give you the kind of body you want. If you really like lifting and want to be a beefcake, go for it. Me...I spent so much of my life "husky" that I want to be lean. So, I stick with running with a bit of lifting just to take care of my core and upper body. Weight lifting bores me, but I love running and don't want to ever stop doing it.

I'll share more stuff in the near future, like what I do when it comes to ordering food at restaurants. That is, assuming that anyone cares to hear about this stuff. I guess I'll just post and then everyone can complain.