Sunday, November 30, 2008

A Visit to the Mandarin Oriental Spa

After our stay last month at the newly opened Mandarin Oriental Boston, I wrote a lengthy review detailing our experience. Our experience at the hotel overall was positive, but we noted a number of areas which disappointed. I then sent an E-mail to Susanne Hatje, the General Manager of the hotel. Ms. Hatje responded promptly and graciously and we set up a time to talk on the phone. We had a pleasant 15 minute conversation about our visit and my review. I especially appreciated the way she took note of specific areas of concern and engaged in deeper conversation about each of them. It was clear to me while talking to her that she read every word of my review and did significant research to seek to understand what happened.

One specific area of disappointment for us was that the spa wasn't yet open during our visit. As a token of her appreciation for my feedback, Ms. Hatje extended an invitation to me and Deanna for a complimentary Two-Hour visit to the Spa in their Sanctuary Couples Suite. We thought this was a great way for us to re-visit the hotel -and- experience the spa now that it was open.

Ms. Hatje sent us a very nice letter thanking me again for the feedback, included contact information for the Spa Director and a fancy gift certificate for our spa visit. A couple of days later, I contacted Sharon Holtz and set up an appointment. She advised that we should show up 45 minutes ahead of time so we could experience all their spa has to offer.

Our spa visit was yesterday (thanks again go to Aunt Sarah for her amazing babysitting coverage.) We arrived curbside at the hotel 50 minutes ahead of our appointment and once again the valet service provided by the hotel doorman was flawless. We entered the hotel and were directed to the spa on the 4th floor by friendly hotel employees. When we arrived at the spa, they greeted us with a friendly "Mr. and Mrs. Dwyer?" While we were getting settled, Ms. Holtz came out to say hello and welcome us. They really did an amazing job of making us feel like VIPs.

The spa experience itself was pretty amazing. Not that I have much experience with spas, but I can't imagine one being much nicer than this one. After trading our shoes in for some spa slippers, Deanna and I went our separate ways for 45 minutes. I received a locker and a quick tour of the fabulously appointed "heat and water" facilities. I fooled around in there for a while and then made my way to the relaxation area and enjoyed some trail-mix type snack and bottled water. I rested my eyes for 10 minutes or so and then was rejoined with Deanna in our couples treatment room. It was like a luxuriously appointed hotel room, but instead of a bed and TV there were two treatment tables and tranquility abound. You can read more about the suites here- everything they say is true. We had two incredible therapists- Tegan and Jeffrey. The treatment was really awesome; it was very well done and completely indulgent. I had a great time. In summary, the place was fabulous, the service well coordinated and our treatments thoroughly enjoyable.

At the conclusion of our treatments we hit the showers and rejoined in the waiting area. Ms. Holtz visited again to confirm that we had a great time. Although our gift certificate entitled us to a complimentary treatment, I assumed that gratuity was not included. When I went to the counter and asked for clarification, the friendly woman at the counter said "Your treatment was complimentary, right? We've taken care of the gratuity. You're all set." I thought that was a very nice and complete touch.

After our spa visit we had lunch at Sel De La Terre (in the same building as the Mandarin Oriental, adjacent to L'Espalier.) We then made our way out to the curb where our car was ready for us in just a few moments. Perfect service from beginning to end.

I'd like to thank Ms. Hatje and Ms. Holtz for their gracious hospitality and their kind response to my somewhat critical review. I think they handled the situation very well and I wish them and the hotel much success.

Does this act of generosity on the hotel's part make it more likely for me to consider Mandarin Oriental for our next visit to downtown Boston? Absolutely. It gives me confidence that this hotel can execute well. Now that it has been open for a while, I imagine a lot of the initial kinks have been worked out and regularity and repetition is making for a more relaxed and consistent level of service for guests.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

How To: Change the Bag and Filters of a Miele Cannister Vacuum Cleaner

This morning while Deanna took the boys to Trader Joe's, I decided to quickly vacuum up a mess that 1 1/2 year old William made with our vacuum cleaner. The bag had been removed without being replaced because it was full, and as a result what should have been a 1 minute project turning into a much longer one, primarily because I had a hard time figuring out how to replace one of the filters on the vacuum cleaner. This blog entry is primarily for my own future reference.

Our current vacuum cleaner is a Miele Flamenco II. The model number is S251i:

The manual for the product is available here.

The bags and filters for this vacuum cleaner look like this:

To order replacement bags from Amazon:
Replacing the bag is done most frequently. This is pretty straightforward. To access the bag, push the button near the handle to release the lid:

Included in every box of replacement bags are replacement filters. There are 2 filters on our vacuum cleaner. Therefore, once every 5 bag replacements the filters should be replaced. Both filters need to be cut to size with a scissors. The first filter is here:

The next filter is the tricky one (and the one that gave me enough frustration to write this blog post). Do *NOT* attempt to replace this filter by opening the small hatch on the top of the vacuum cleaner that contains the accessory parts!

The correct way to access this filter is by opening the entire unit and removing the air filter from the same compartment as the bag and the other filter:

Here are Miele's kind-of lame instructions ("Open the dust compartment lid" and "Open the filter frame" aren't very instructive to a dope like me, though the picture is a little helpful):

It would have been better if directly on the device where I was trying to jam my screwdriver there was a warning that said "Achtung! Do not attempt to replace this filter from here! Access this filter from inside the vacuum cleaner!" In my opinion if I have to read the manual to figure out how to do something like replacing the filters, it is a failure in design. Overall, this vacuum cleaner is decent enough. It works well on hardwood floors and tile, but does *not* work very well on carpet. The carpet attachment frequently gets tangled up with debris and needs maintenance.

Common Causes of Distress

The most common cause of a "red indicator" is a full bag.
Pro Tip: When the vacuum cleaner is struggling it's most commonly caused by the bag being full. However, sometimes it's caused by an obstruction in the hose. If the bag isn't full, remove the hose from the unit to see if that relieves pressure. If it doesn't, re-connect the hose in stages from the unit to the attachment. When the problematic portion has been attached the "red indicator" will come back on. Then you'll know where to go after the obstruction.

If you've stumbled upon this blog entry from a Google search for "how do i replace the filter on a miele vacuum cleaner" please leave a comment saying "Hey thanks man! I appreciate it!". If you read this because you're a regular reader of our family blog then I apologize for subjecting you to such a mundane topic. I posted this here as a Dwyer family reference.

Hope everyone has a great week heading up to Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

David Cook Releases First Album

Well, the day has finally arrived. Thinking back to last May when David Cook finally won the thing, I remember thinking that I'd be sure to buy this album the day it came out. However, after hearing the first couple of singles from the album I'm not quite so enthusiastic.

I did a quick listen of each track (on Amazonwhich has a nice "Preview All" function that plays 30-second clips of all the songs on an album) and I thought there were some good songs. I'll probably buy the album at some point, but both iTunes and Amazon have it for $9.99 today. I'd imagine it'll be on sale for $7.99 or $8.99 digitally at some point.

UPDATE: I bought the album for $9.00 on iTunes. I got $0.99 off since I purchased the "Time of My Life" single when it first came out.

Question of the Day: What do you think? Are you going to/have you bought this album?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Just Give

This article in the Boston Globe magazine was a timely read for me this morning as I consider the start of my new job tomorrow. Going back to work was no small decision for me. One of my major motivators was a sense of longing to do something for those in need. The position I chose (and which I'm proud to say, chose me) is one where I can put my marketing skills and experience to work as the Marketing Manager for a children's rehabilitation hospital in Boston. At first I wasn't sure how someone trained and practiced in the art of enticing buyers to open their wallets could turn those skills into something philanthropic. But one walk through the neonatal ward, and I knew that my efforts to help run fundraising events and make the hospital better known in the community could really benefit this place working hard to deliver life altering, quality care to those who so desperately need it.

With all the political chatter lately, I can't help but hear our President Elect's Kennedy-esque call to serve our communities and give back. With politics aside, I say, count me in.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Twitter Hits Its Tipping Point

Last year I signed up for a Twitter account as part of a Web 2.0 exploration experiment. I also signed up for Facebook, Corkd, and Viddler around the same time but drew the line at Pownce and did not sign up for a MySpace account. Of these services I would say that Twitter has become my 2nd most used social networking site next to Facebook. This past week, two of my Facebook friends rhetorically asked "What's Twitter?" and "How is this easier than updating my status on Facebook?"

Valid questions, and I can see why amidst the sea of silly-sounding sites people would be skeptical about joining yet another social networking service. It's almost comical when you log into these sites and see an eerily similar description: "'X' is a social networking site that helps you stay connected with your friends!" "Um, I thought they called that e-mail" you, might say.

Well, yes and no. To those who say "I don't have time to be on social networking sites" I propose that you don't have time *not* to be on social networking sites. The simple reason being that person-to-person e-mail exchanges are time consuming and should be reserved for occasions when privacy is needed. The better social networking sites enable effective and enjoyable asynchronous multi-person communication in ways that e-mail cannot. The majority of the interactions that define the relationships with people we know and care about are the mundane details that make up our days: The fever your child has. The thing you just did at work. The minor automobile accident you just got in. The product you're considering buying and the advice you're open to receiving about it. These are the details that keep people informed about what's going on in our lives that would *never* individually qualify as a reason for sending an e-mail. This is what social networking does really well.

What separates Twitter from Facebook? Well, Twitter (primarily) only replicates the "Status Update" portion of Facebook:

Here is what the input box on Twitter looks like:

So why play around with Twitter when you just as easily could update your status on Facebook? Well, first off, you can link your Facebook status so that your Twitter status updates your Facebook status automatically. To do this, search for "twitter" in the Facebook search box and install the Twitter Facebook Application. This is useful in two ways: First, you may not want to keep track of more than one status setting application. Second, it allows you to reveal details on Facebook separately from Twitter if you so choose. You see, Twitter updates your Facebook status, but Facebook does not update your Twitter status. This can be useful in situations where you would like to share a different status with trusted friends on Facebook but *not* share that same status on Twitter. For example, if you're out of town. Twitter is, by default, readable and searchable by the world. If you value privacy above all else, Twitter may not be for you. While it is easy to restrict who can read your what you're saying on Twitter, it kind of defeats the purpose. You see, keeping your Twitter status open to the public enables some interesting capabilities. Read on.

About a month ago, I sarcastically tweeted (that is to say, "I set my Twitter status update to...") "Hey Comcast! Our Internet connection has been flaky all week. Please repair- thanks in advance. " Wouldn't you know, 9 minutes later I received a message back from a user named "comcastcares" saying "@casperkill Can I look into that for you? There was a routing issue this morning that is now fixed" How did they do that? Well, if you go to you can search for what anyone might be tweeting. These searches can also be captured as an RSS feed, which basically means that without any work reloading web pages on their part, Comcast can monitor what the Internet is saying about them and diffuse hostile though-leader-type customers from spreading negative feedback about them. More importantly responses to the would-be hostile customer can be followed by anyone so not only is the hostile customer resopnded to, but the company publicly displays that they are listening and would like to help. If I'm looking in on this conversation I'm thinking to myself, "Boy, Comcast is on the ball. Well done!" If you care about your company and you're not monitoring what people are saying about your company on Twitter, take it upon yourself to get out there and at least monitor the conversation. You don't even need a Twitter account to do this.

But back to the tipping point... In the just-completed 2008 Presidential election, National Public Radio utilized Twitter to collect data on voter irregularity. You can read more about it here. NPR decided it would be more effective to have individuals from all over the country reporting their status than it would be to have their reporters try to capture stories by randomly running around. If there was a hot spot of suspicious activity, not only could NPR reporters have a closer look, but anyone who followed the discussion with the keyword "votereport" could as well. It is this kind of interconnected information sharing that makes so-called Web 2.0 technology great.

You can also have your Twitter status automatically update your blog. This is how we keep our status up to date on CasaDwyer. This is useful for your friends and family that don't want to sign up for Facebook or Twitter but have a look at your family blog every once in a while:

After a while, you'll find that more and more of your friends are on Twitter, and it's fun to follow what they're up to. You'll also find it an interesting way to keep tabs on people you know of, but aren't necessarily your friends. Guys like "garyvee" (Gary Vaynerchuk from Wine Library TV) or even Barack Obama. You'd be surprised who has a Twitter account!

So sign up for an account and follow me on Twitter. I think you'll be glad you did.

Question of the Day: What do you think of social networking sites? Waste of time? Or the best thing you've discovered in 2008?
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