Thursday, December 19, 2013 vs.

My latest “adventure” revolves around customer support departments of two online companies that market cases for the iPhone 5s and iPad Air.

Example 1:

The bad example is and their Atlas ID waterproof case for the iPhone 5s shown above.  The company touts its “legendary warranty protection” on both its site and its telephone answering message.  I bought the case, watched their video on YouTube, and read the installation directions, removed my phone’s screen protector, and then inserted my phone. It is a good looking case, well constructed, and obviously rugged, but from the start, the fingerprint ID unlocking system didn’t work.  The case has its own glass screen that sits atop the phone’s touch sensitive glass to make it waterproof, and the video shows everything working perfectly despite the extra glass layer.  But not on mine.  I then tried to have my phone learn a new fingerprint, but a dozen such efforts were all failures with the phone error message saying that my fingerprint couldn’t be read.  Yet when I removed the phone from the case, everything functioned perfectly again.  Also, I had to poke the Atlas screen quite hard and often more than once to get it to even open apps and use functions of apps, and the bottom home row of apps wouldn’t respond to touching at all, and the same with the bottom row of functions like “trash” on the Mail app.  Typing an email or a comment on Facebook, etc. was very difficult and a lengthy process.  I also couldn’t raise the bottom Control Center panel and when I lowered the Notification Center from the top of the screen, I couldn’t raise it up again.

Obviously the case wasn’t working right since the video and the reviews I read said that touch functions worked fine.  Perhaps there was a problem with the glass layer, or at least the bottom section of the glass?  Or a defect in the case’s home button covering? Or all of the above?  I called customer service to report the problem and was told to use their website to request a return number  (or refund), then pack the case up perfectly like I had found it (per the instructions on the website), go to the post office, and mail it back to them.  They would process it and send a replacement if they found a problem.  I pointed out that they already had my money and why should I have to wait for a product that actually worked properly, and that I would have no working case for my phone, and I asked what I should do to protect the phone for the 2 weeks this cumbersome process was going to take.  No reply.  So fearing I'd just have the same experience again, I simply returned it for a refund (which I hope they'll follow through on.)

Example 2:

Example 2 is a company called  My last two iPads have had SwitchEasy cases and I loved them, so I and ordered a third case for my new iPad Air (photo above).  After receiving it, I discovered it didn’t automatically put the iPad to sleep when the cover was closed, and thus the iPad was running the battery down when supposedly asleep.  I emailed their customer service with the problem, and within 3 hours I got an email back from Viktoria saying that they were sorry for the problem, and that a replacement cover was in the mail.  I received it two days later and it is working fine.  I looked in the packaging for how to send the defective one back to them, but nothing indicated they even wanted it back.  This is what Customer Service is supposed to be like!

Which company do you think I’ll continue doing business with and will recommend to others?

Hastings Lake Forest Preserve

The recently re-opened Hastings Lake Forest Preserve is in the Lake Villa/Lindenhurst area of Lake County.  The parking area is on Gelden Road south of Grass Lake Road, north of Route 132, and east of Deep Lake Road, and north of Illinois Route 45.  Though only 270 acre4s, it offers a paved 2 mile loop around Hastings Lake, another 1 mile loop, three picnic shelters, a large playground, three scenic overlooks, several boardwalks,lake access for cartop boats, and two wheelchair accessible fishing piers. Here's the map (click to enlarge)...

The preserve was named for the Hastings Lake YMCA camp that had occupied the site from 1923 to 2002.  The YMCA of Metro Chicago continues to operate out of a small section of the old property and offers aquatics, family programs, fitness classes, and apparently outdoor ropes activities on this interesting looking apparatus that abuts the loop trail...

The four miles of paved and gravel trails wind through open fields, woodlands of stately trees, and wetlands. Trails are open to bicycling, hiking, and cross-country skiing; horses and snowmobiles are not permitted. Two trail spurs provide access to the preserve from the Seven Hills and Mallard Ridge subdivisions, and a trail connection to Grass Lake Road on the east side of the lake is also available.

The lake is visible in the background of the following photo, though it is ice and snow covered and blends into the scenery. Many scenic vistas of the lake are found as you hike the loop trail.  Bluegill, largemouth bass, carp, and other species can be found in the lake.  Swimming, ice skating and ice fishing are not permitted

As I hiked over one of the boardwalks, this coyote scampered out and took off through the reeds.  You can see his back end in the center of the photo below (click to enlarge.)

The trail is mostly out in the open, so a really windy day wouldn't be the best time to hike here, but the views are lovely and the traffic noise is minimal, so as John Muir loved to say, "Get out of the house!"

Saturday, December 14, 2013

2007 Copper Canyon Mexico Road Scholar/Elderhostel Trip

"From Texas Through Mexico's Copper Canyon" is sponsored by the Davis Mountain Education Center in Fort Davis, Texas. This was an 11 night Elderhostel, with 8 nights in Mexico. They also offer a 7 night version of this program. The first 2 nights were in Fort Davis at DMEC's facility, from which we toured the town's namesake fort, now a National Historic site, and also the nearby world-famous McDonald Observatory. 

(Links to 2 YouTube videos of this trip are at the bottom of this post)


On day three, we rode a motor coach to Chihuahua City, Mexico, where we toured the capitol building and the Cathedral Metropolitana. The photo above shows our guide, Ernesto, flanked by Ellen, Ghislaine, and John, as we walked the downtown Pedestrian Mall. That evening was a treat and one of the program's highlights -- a delicious home-hosted dinner by a gracious local resident, Blanca. Our final night in Mexico was also in Chihuahua City, and that night we visited the Pancho Villa Museum, attended a pottery making/painting demonstration, and watched a performance by the award-winning Ballet Folklorica dancers.

Copper Canyon, a series of six canyons in Mexico's Sierra Madre Mountains, is four times larger than the Grand Canyon and 300 feet deeper. It comprises 25,000 rugged square miles and occupies nearly a third of the State of Chihuahua, Mexico's largest state. The canyon has long been home to the Tarahumara Indians (the Raramuri or "people of the swiftly running feet"), who moved into the canyons hundreds of years ago to escape successive invasions by the Aztecs, Spanish, and Apaches, and have lived reclusive, subsistence lives for centuries, eschewing modern conveniences and maintaining their culture.

We rode the Chihuahua Al Pacifico Railroad (el Chepe for short) which rises from sea level at Los Mochis on the Gulf of Cortez up through the Urique Canyon to an altitude of over 8000 feet atop Copper Canyon, passing over 39 bridges and through 86 tunnels along its 405 mile journey. 

This photo is at Temoris where the train makes three passes through the valley to gain elevation, including a 180 degree tunnel which also rises 100 feet. As the train ascends, one observes as the flora changes from desert plants to dense green forest. Railroad buffs might be surprised to learn this is a standard gauge train, not narrow gauge.

Our guide, Ernesto, is out on a point, giving perspective to the depth and breadth of the canyon. He was atop "balancing rock," rocking it back and forth, as we watched from another overlook. The majestic views of the canyon never failed to inspire awe, and though I am a huge Grand Canyon addict, with over a half-dozen adventures in it, I was duly impressed with Copper Canyon and appreciative of the Tarahumara embracing it as their home for centuries.

We spent 2 nights in Cerocahui, 11 miles down into the canyon...

...and visited the Mission School, a boarding school for 75 Tarahumara girls in kindergarten to sixth grade. The girls receive free schooling, and since the town is so far from their canyon homes, they live in darling, pink dormitory rooms. Started years ago by the church across the street (seen below),  it is now run by a foundation, and teaches the girls the skills needed in today's world, including computer skills. 

The girls took a break from their cleaning chores and gathered to sing for us, after which we Elderhostelers sang for them.

While in Cerocahui, we also hiked several miles up a side canyon to a local waterfall, where Ernesto demonstrated how warm the water was. The beauty and solitude reminded me of Colorado hikes. 

Several of us also rented horses for a 2 hour ride through the forested mountainside surrounding this valley ranching community.

At Divisadero, from the two hotels on the rim, we could see the Tarahumara residences of three families several hundred feet below the rim...

...and then we hiked down to visit their homesteads built on the narrow ledge. A close look will show these homes in the center of the photo, about a third of the way down.

Here are the Tarahumara residences on the ledge seen in the photo above. A woman wearing the traditional brightly colored dress was weaving plant material into a basket as we visited. We also saw plant material being soaked in water which changes the color of the material. Girls selling finished baskets, and boys selling stones they had gathered, were along the path we had hiked. The baskets were also being sold at train stations, outside hotels, at picnic areas, and in numerous other locations, and the sales help the families purchase what they are unable to provide for themselves.

The group consisted of...
Ruth, Ron, Harriet, Jean, Mary M., Margaret, Alan M., John S., Jan H., Angela, John D., Linda G., Marge, Ghislaine, Ray, Chuck, Mary P., Lou, Allan L., Linda P., John T., Jan C., Carol, Marion, Bob, Don, Ellen, and Mary H.
and Ernesto, our extraordinary guide


Videos of this program, including footage aboard the trail


Monday, December 2, 2013

George Carlin Asks…

  • If you throw a cat out of a car window, does it become kitty litter?
  • If you choke a Smurf, what color does it turn?
  • Is it okay to use the AM radio after noon?
  • What do chickens think we taste like?
  • What do people in China call their good plates?
  • What do you call a male ladybug?
  • What hair color do they put on the driver’s license of a bald man?
  • If a dog food is new and has improved taste, who tested it?
  • Why didn’t Noah swat those two mosquitoes?
  • Why do they sterilize the needle for lethal injections?
  • Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle or tube?
  • Why is it called tourist season if we can’t shoot at them?
  • Why do you need a driver’s license to buy liquor when you can’t drink and drive?
  • Why isn’t phonetic spelled the way it sounds?
  • Why are their Interstate highways in Hawai’i?
  • Why are there flotation devices in the seats of airplanes instead of parachutes?
  • Why are cigarettes sold at gas stations where smoking is prohibited?
  • Have you ever imagined a world without hypothetical situations?
  • How does the guy who drives the snowplow get to work?
  • If the 7-11 is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, why does it have locks on the door?
  • Why is a bra singular and panties plural?
  • If a fire fighter fights fire and a crime fighter fights crime, what does a freedom fighter fight?
  • If they squeeze olives to get olive oil, how do they get baby oil?
  • If a cow laughs, does milk come out of her nose?
  • If you are driving at the speed of light and you turn your headlights on, what happens?
  • Why is it that when you transport something by car it is called a shipment, but when you transport something by ship it’s called cargo?
  • Why don’t sheep shrink when it rains?
  • What would Geronimo say if he jumped out of an airplane?
  • Why are the called apartments when they are all stuck together?
  • If con is the opposite of pro, is Congress the opposite of progress?
  • If flying is so safe, why do they call the airport the terminal?
  • Why do we park on a driveway and drive on a parkway?