Timeline of why NOBODY should EVER, EVER ship via UPS to a South Philly residence. #UPSFail

The following is my personal timeline break-down of why NOBODY should EVER, EVER, send packages to anyone in South Philadelphia, using UPS. #UPSFail


Day 1 / Friday / 6pm // Come home to the first Delivery Attempt Notice. Do nothing. (stupid on my part apparently… I should have just called UPS and ordered a Hold for PickUp. OBVIOUSLY.)

Day 2 / Saturday // UPS Closed. (Why would you want to let people pick-up their packages on the weekend? I mean, you do keep trying to deliver them during the work day, to private residences… maybe everyone should take off from work to be home to receive their UPS delivery?)

Day 3 / Sunday // UPS Closed. (See Day 2 above)

Sorry We're Closed

Day 4 / Monday / 6pm // Come home to the second Delivery Attempt Notice.
Day 4 / Monday / 7:15pm // Realize that making dinner for our hungry 3 year old put us past the “UPS 7pm Request Deadline” window for us to call and hold the package at the main UPS facility… but we call anyway, and start the process.

Angry Toddler

Day 4 / Monday / 7:20pm // Automated phone prompts apparently allow us to Hold for PickUp! Yipee! (…or so we thought.)

I'm a Robot

Day 5 / Tuesday / 11:00am // Log-on to UPS.com and check the status of the package. Tracking Detail trail indicates not one, but TWO “Pick up at UPS Facility” activity updates! WooHoo! That means I can now drive to the horrible Oregon Avenue UPS facility and endure Post-Office-like lines and service! (…or so we thought.) I print the Tracking Details page, just in case… I have done this before mind you.

UPS Truck 1970's

Day 5 / Tuesday / 6:20pm // Roll into depressing, crowded and disorganized UPS facility. Usually, I have to ‘check in’ with a woman at a computer by the doors, but for some random reason, even though she was at her computer doing nothing, the security guard ordered me to step up the regular counter line without checking in… ok. Cool.
I show the attendant my print-out with my 2 UPS InfoNotice slips stuck on it. He looks at them, and I tell him we’ve had 2 attempts, but held it for pickup last night. He then rips one of the InfoNotices roughly off my print out, (the second attempt one) and gruffly asks me if it’s one package or two. (Huh? I can’t say for sure, because the InfoNotice never really has any details about the package(s) and neither does the website’s Tracking Details. Usually we’re lucky if there’s even any indication as to who specifically the package is for, let alone who it’s coming from, or how many parcels it is.) He looks frustrated by my lack of certainty, and points at my driver’s license (which I already have out, knowing it’s usually needed, and me, wanting to be as efficient as I can) and asks me with a frustrated tone, “Is this the address it’s going to?” I say yes, and off he goes into the back, I imagine much like Alice down the rabbit hole.

Alice down the Rabbit Hole

Day 5 / Tuesday / 6:30pm // Attendant comes out calling for some street that is not mine. No one answers him, and after a minute or so, he ducks back down the rabbit hole.
Day 5 /Tuesday / 6:35pm // Attendant emerges again, with InfoNotice in hand. Informs me that the InfoNotice was not for my address. What? And then throws my InfoNotice in the trash. Huh? Ok…. I guess. Then he takes my First Attempt InfoNotice with equal roughness and lack of cordialness, and goes back down the rabbit hole once again.


Day 5 / Tuesday / 6:38pm // My wife texts me that she just got home, and there’s a third InfoNotice. This time saying it’s the Final Attempt and will be returned to sender if we aren’t there to get it. (oh, you mean at 11:30am at my house? Again, should I be taking the day off from work? So I can be there to receive my package and work around your delivery schedule?)
Day 5 / Tuesday / 6:39pm // At home, my wife begins the automated phone prompts once again, but this time, to make sure she speaks to a human being. (all the while juggling our hungry 3 year old)
Day 5 / Tuesday / 6:40pm // UPS attendant emerges once again with my InfoNotice, and informs me that “The package is out for delivery on the truck.” WHAT? “But the truck should be back sometime between 7pm and 8:30pm, and I’m welcome to wait.” WAIT?! WHAT?? YOUR STUPID PHONE ROBOT SAID IT’S HERE. YOUR STUPID INTERNET ROBOT SAID IT’S HERE. TWICE! NOW YOU’RE TELLING ME I’M WELCOME TO WAIT HERE FOR UP TO AN HOUR AND 50 MINUTES TO GET MY PACKAGE??!!

Keep Calm and Dont Kill Anyone

…so I try to stay as calm as I can, and tell him that we called in the Hold for Pickup last night, and the phone prompt said it was being held, and the website said it was being held, twice. He then asks me, “Well, what time did you call?” …”Uh, sometime around 7:20-ish I think.” I say. He comes back with an obviously well practiced statement, “Well, on the back of the slip it says you have to call by 7pm, or the hold can’t be guaranteed.” At which point, I inform him that the phone and website said it was held, and here, in the facility, and that’s why I drove my tired ass down to this craptastic facility to get my mystery package …he has nothing else to tell me. Just shrugs, and hands me back my wonderfully useful UPS InfoNotice. I leave verbally yelling that “…UPS is the friggin’ worst place EVER, and I have no idea why ANYONE stills uses them.”

Ups Tossed Packages

Day 5 / Tuesday / 7:10pm // Drove home, now I’m scouring the neighborhood for a parking spot. Coming home this late always means it’s a struggle to find a spot. When I do, I drag my ass home, defeated and frustrated. Wife sympathizes and gives me a hug. I then pretty much immediately plan this blog post and start googling for relevant hashtags…

Day 6 / Wednesday / 11:58am // Search UPS.com for latest InfoNotice, and discover a completely revised Shipment Progress Activity log. Now the two updates from Monday night, about it being held for pickup are gone. Now there are lots of entries about delivery attempts and customer not being there for delivery. The latest activity is from 7:09pm Tuesday night, “The Delivery Change Request for this package has been completed. / Same Day Will Call. As requested, the receiver will pickup at a UPS facility.”

Day 6 / Wednesday / 7:10pm // Drive back down into the depths of delivery hell, to our local Oregon Ave UPS pit. Greeted by no security guard this time, and get sort of directed by UPS attendants walking by, that tonight, we apparently do have to “check-in” with the lady at the computer. How interesting. I wonder how they decide such things? So the two dummies in front of me, didn’t realize they’d need something official with the address on it before they can pick up their crap… step aside dummies and dig up some email on your cell phone or whatever, I don’t care… I have my driver’s license out and ready to go. She looks something up, scribbles some additional cryptic code on the back, completely not related to the tracking code on the front?? And then I get the honor of going into another line, where I wait for an attendant to go back through the rabbit hole… who do I get? The same exact guy I got the night before, who I basically yelled at as I walked out the door. He seems to possibly recognize me, but to my relief, he doesn’t give me any attitude. Just takes my InfoNotice with the scribbles on back, and goes down the rabbit hole.


FDR Skatepark // A Visual History

Last year I was asked to contribute to a book that was in the works to “…visually document FDR skatepark… it’s history… it’s culture… it’s attitude. Youknowhatimean?” Well, I haven’t been to the skatepark in a couple years, but I was pretty involved during it’s creation and growth during the 90’s and early 2000’s. I never really skated it much, but lots of my friends did, (and still do! yeah 50 year old Bud Baum!) and I was usually down there, trying to help however I could. (once hosted a planning meeting/negotiation in my apartment during an especially contentious period of the park’s early first growth spurt.)

Anyway, what I lacked in actually skating, I like to think I made up for in shooting pics. (I know, I know, Freddy, it’s not the same thing, but let me have this! :-) I have boxes and boxes of pictures. Pictures of both FDR skatepark’s birth and at least half dozen years of it’s development. And also from that era, I have probably equal amounts of pictures of a private skate warehouse (Props to Danny Dansak!) that was, alas, not destined to live as long and as strong as FDR skatepark. (It was converted to, eek! luxury studio condos a bunch of years back) So anyway, it was a big task to gather all the thousands of photos, sort through them all… but I figured FDR makes for a great story, and if I didn’t even try, I knew I’d kick myself later. So in between all the craziness of my wife being pregnant and all the nesting activities that come along with that, I found time to gather all my skate photo stuff together and go through it with a couple of the book’s authors. We came up with some selects, and then I had to find the negatives, which was probably the hardest part of the whole effort. (none of the pictures, negatives, and their envelopes seemed to have retained any proper associations over the years) But all that said, it’s all done, and last week THE BOOK CAME OUT!! Below is a description of the book, and below that are my pics from the book!

FDR Skatepark: A Visual History
FDR Skatepark began its life in 1996 with a few small obstacles built by the City of Philadelphia in an attempt to meet the needs of a growing community. In true D-I-Y fashion, local skaters soon gathered their resources and began the ongoing construction of a space of their own design. As the world s largest D-I-Y skateboard park, today FDR is recognized throughout the world as a landmark in the skateboarding community. A photographic history of FDR, this book contains work from more than 25 contributors, from amateurs with disposable cameras to professional photographers. Side by side with the actual skateboarding are photos of wildfires, box cutter wounds, riot police, and drunks shooting sewer rats. Complete with oral histories gathered from park locals, this one-of-a-kind record documents the legend and landscape of the past fifteen years under the bridge.”

Authors: Nicholas Orso, Phil Jackson, Scott Kmiec + various contributors

Cover of the book, FDR Skatepark: A Visual History.
This is the cover. I totally didn’t take this shot of Joey P trying a sweeper… but I figured it would be good to include just the same.

This is my little out-of-focus pic of the birth of FDR's first skater-built construction, the CIA pocket. They blew it up to a full two-page spread! As far as I know, and the authors could figure, this is the earliest picture of skater built construction at FDR.
This is my little out-of-focus pic of the birth of FDR’s first skater-built construction, the CIA pocket. They blew it up to a full two-page spread! As far as I know, and the authors could figure, this is the earliest picture of skater built construction at FDR. (I wish I’d realized how out of focus it was when I took it, but this was before DSLRs, and I didn’t have a wide-angle lens back then, and had to get pretty far away to get it all in… blah, blah, excuses, excuses. It is what it is.)

FDR Skatepark is famous for it's 4th of July party... horizontal fireworks were a predictable mainstay right from the beginning. This shot is probably from 1997.
FDR Skatepark is famous for it’s 4th of July party… horizontal fireworks were a predictable mainstay right from the beginning. This shot is probably from 1997.

This shot is from the same 1997 4th of July party. Bands and punk rock are a staple of FDR 4th of July celebrations, along with a whole lot of beer, and more kooks than you can shake a stick at. You never know exactly what will go down at these 4th of July jams.
This shot is from the same 1997 4th of July party. Bands and punk rock are a staple of FDR 4th of July celebrations, along with a whole lot of beer, and more kooks than you can shake a stick at. You never know exactly what will go down at these 4th of July jams.

I don't remember exactly what is going on in this pic, but if I had to guess, Daily Dave of probably telling Mr. Rogers how it's gonna be, and Carlos & Wes seem to be getting a kick out of the interaction... as Fernando looks pretty fed up with the whole process.  :-)
I don’t remember exactly what is going on in this pic, but if I had to guess, Daily Dave of probably telling Mr. Rogers how it’s gonna be, and Carlos & Wes seem to be getting a kick out of the interaction… as Fernando looks pretty fed up with the whole process. :-)

Darren Menditto blasting some head-high air, with seeming ease! And George Draguns holding onto an inverted view of the world, which he is rightfully proud to do.
Darren Menditto blasting some head-high air, with seeming ease! And George Draguns holding onto an inverted view of the world, which he rightfully is proud to do.

If I find time, I may post more pics that didn’t make the cut for the book. Look for that sometime around Marchtember Oneteenth.

Responsive/Adaptive Web Design

I haven’t posted anything to my blog in way too long of a time, but all I can say is, being a new Poppa can be all consuming. There’s good and bad to that… but mostly good as far as I can see. :-) Anyway, I’ve been excited by the possibilities I’ve been seeing with “Responsive Web Design” for well over a year now, and figured I’d post a little something about it.

The Basics

Previously, if clients were concerned about how their site was viewed on mobile devices, firms would build separate device-specific sites for the more popular devices for their users. Typically the iPhone, for the clients that could worry about and pay for the extra design and development.

So, “Responsive Web Design” is basically creating CSS for your HTML pages that listens to what sort of environment the end-user is using to view the page, and serves up typography, graphics and layout that is best for that environment. What do I mean by “environment”? Well, it’s the difference between viewing a site on your maximized 1600×1200 desktop browser, 1024×768 laptop, or maybe viewing the site from your iPhone oriented vertically. Those are some very different environments, and can be treated differently to make for a better viewing experience for your end user in any of those viewing environments.

Three different sizes (or environments) for viewing the same web page.

The first article I took notice of for this technique was, of course, from the folks at A List Apart:
(Specifically, this article was written by Ethan Marcotte from the famous web blog unstoppablerobotninja.com)

And he even created an example website that had pretty good cross-browser adaptability even for May of 2010. It can be viewed here:
(If you are on a non-mobile device, try resizing the browser, and watch the page completely respond to your changing environment. If you are on a mobile device, you can rotate the orientation of the device to see 2 potentially different layouts.)

If you’ve ever been tasked to make a beautiful and usable website for a client, and then asked as an after-thought to make an iPhone version of the site, this new methodology can be amazingly exciting.

My Experiment

Just as an experiment, to try and play with this a bit, I made a page using my usual technique of cobbling together other people’s online tutorials and examples and then bashing it into something close to what I want it to look like. I need to read up more about Fluid Images but here is what I have so far:

Some Light Reading

If this is as exciting to you as it is to me, here are some additional links to get more details:

The Basic Concept

Lots more details and examples

A great grouping of additional articles that would prove quite helpful

What about applying this to Email Newsletters?
(Not sure about the cross-browser/email-browser support of @media queries, but this is potentially a powerful application of Responsive Web Design)


South Philly Do-Or-Die.

So I’m just gonna say it. South Philly has a lot of sucky aspects. There are some people down here that are just SO stupid and/or inconsiderate. There’s trash like urban tumbleweed because the city stopped street sweeping and removed corner trash cans. There are drug dealing corner bars that go unchecked for generations. (until recently that is :-) But I’m not really wanting to focus on the negatives. (like parking during, and after a snow storm). What I want to focus on however, are the positives!

And there are some seriously nice positives.

  1. Generally, once you get to know your neighbors, they can really be very sweet and considerate.
  2. There are corner stores peppered everywhere, so if your wife is wanting to cook something and finds she’s missing an ingredient, most likely the Italian corner store on one side of the block, or the Mexican corner store on the other side of the block will have what you’re looking for. (and I say “your wife” in a non-sexist way, because in our house she really enjoys cooking, and I’m more than happy to handle the clean-up, which she HATES… so we see it as a perfect harmony situation).
  3. There are many delicious places to eat out or order in, and they’re mostly within a 10 minute walk!
  4. There are multiple forms of mass transit crisscrossing and zig-zagging through the neighborhoods.
  5. Ah, Hello? HOLIDAY LIGHTS!!!
  6. Valentine’s Day Window DECORATIONS?
  7. Pretty cool row house construction sometimes.
  8. AND… an ever increasing number of cool new residents. Just to name a few of the positives.

But I want to focus on the first two items on my positives list. This Valentine’s Day morning, my lovely wife decided that she wanted to make waffles from scratch, and at about 8am she started to gather the ingredients together. But wait a minute! We don’t have enough butter?! No problem. Let me (as the assistant to the chef) throw on a jacket and some shoes and take a walk to one of the corner stores and buy some butter for my wife and her cooking proclivities.

A picture of a tastie looking plate of South Philly Waffles, with the waffle iron slightly out of focus in the background.

So I tried the Mexican corner store first, because they usually have more regular hours of operation… but 8am on a Sunday seems to be a little too early. Ok, how about the Italian corner store? Sometimes they surprise me. Nope, not this time. Ok, lemme walk half a block east and see if the Indian corner store is open yet. They’ve come through in the past for some milk for my morning cereal. But no. They too are closed this fine slush filled Sunday morning.

So coming up with 3 strikes, you’d think this Philly is out… but then I think, “Who knows, it can’t really hurt to ask.” So on my way back from scoping out the Indian corner store, I step into Varallo Brother’s bakery. Italian bakers use a LOT of butter, right? So maybe they’ll take pity on me and sell me a stick of butter? It can’t hurt to ask, right? So I walk up to the counter and hope that it’s one of the nice ladies that know me. (I’ve been known to stop by on occasion for their award winning cannoli or other tasty treats.) But it’s not my familiar ladies… it’s 2 new faces that I’ve never seen before, but more importantly have never seen ME. And I almost chicken out, but I muster my south philly bravado and just say, “Hi, this is gonna be a strange question, but, you wouldn’t be able to sell me a stick of butter could you?” (I know, I know, it’s not exactly “bravado” but it’s all I could muster! My momma raised me to be polite to strangers.) I get a funny look from both ladies, and I clarify that “My wife is wanting to make waffles, and we don’t have butter, and all the corner stores are closed.” Their skeptical looks give way to a half smile each, and the lady that greeted me says that she’ll go ask, but doesn’t think they have just “sticks” of butter.

Not sure what that means because I’m unfamiliar with the inner workings, and purchasing patterns of an Italian bakery, I just wait patiently. I figure at the least, I can tell my wife I’ve exhausted every possibility other than walking all the way (4 blocks) to the local Ack-ah-me. But to my complete and total surprise, one of the Varallo brothers comes out from the back, and in his hand… a 4-stick BRICK of butter still wrapped in its wax paper. He tells me it would be less trouble to “just take her out for breakfast”, and I joke back with him that it would require us to actually go “out”. And we chuckle a little. He puts the brick of golden tastiness in a brown bag and simply hands it to me and waves at me to take it, and scoots back to his kitchen before I could even adequately thank him for his wonderfully generous and nice act.

One of the very nice Varallo Sisters giving top notch service to a hungry customer.

WOW?! I mean I’ve always felt that the Varallo family is genuinely nice after you get past the oh-so-thin veil of gruffness that seems to mask all the older Italian shopkeeps in the area… but wow this was something else! I felt that I couldn’t just walk out of there with my free butter brick and not give them ANY money at all. So I asked the now surprised and amused looking ladies behind the counter if I could get a couple tasty looking danish and a couple of these little chocolate topped cookie pastries things that I’d never seen before.

I mean, c’mon, like I said… I couldn’t just walk out of there without giving them ANY of my money, right? It’s the neighborly thing to do! :-)

South Philly, sometimes you truly ROCK.

The future of “Print”?

Wow. Talk about deep content. This little visualization of what Sports Illustrated could turn into on is completely “Game ON!” (sorry, had to do it) This is exactly the type of thing that has so many people excited about the prospect of some sort of Apple “Tablet”. Really nice work Time, Inc. and WonderFactory!

But I tell you this… to create a magazine like this would be no small endeavor. To have content that runs this deep would require a whole lot of people working real hard, probably around the clock. But imagine if Wired magazine were like this? Or how about US News and World Report? Or maybe online news magazines? Like the Huffington Post?

Awesometown, population Pomplamoose.

Yeah, so I’ve been loving this band for about 6 months, and not even sure I remember how I heard them, (tekzilla maybe? is that geeky enough for ya?) but this band is GGGGGREAT! They’re called Pomplamoose… which the name is sort of a phonetic version of the french word for grapefruit. (pamplemousse) …but I can tell you this: THESE FOLKS NEED TO PUT OUT AN ALBUM AND TOUR! THEY ARE AWESOME!!

Pomplamoose is basically a duo (and a happy couple btw) out of San Francisco. She’s Nataly Dawn, saucy but demure, and smart (recently got here Masters in French Literature) with a voice on her that makes you sit up and listen. And he’s Jack Conte, creative and free, and talented. (and the ladies at my work feel he’s a looker too!) And they make goddamn good music together! And VideoSongs too! (VideoSongs are basically WYSIWYG music. {WYSIWYG, aka “What You See Is What You Get” or wizi-wig}) Which can be seen on their YouTube channel. Also, you can download some free tracks, and buy a bunch at their MySpace page. (Covers are FREE. Originals are $1.)

Nataly and Jack formed the band Pomplamoose in the Summer of 2008. The band’s presence is primarily online, having only performed one live show. Nevertheless, the collaboration has garnered significant fan support. Fueled by the feature of their video Hail Mary on the main page of Youtube, Pomplamoose’s channel has about 13,000 subscribers as of August 2009. The band recently produced the next studio album of Julia Nunes.


If you haven’t heard them yet, it’s time to check ’em out and get a good seat on the ol’ bandwagon… pun entirely intended. So here are some of my fav VideoSongs and such: