Mike Cornelison

Letters from the Lunar Outpost

I got all the supplies to set up two phones in the new office, for $52 each we’ll be running two magicJacks, they come with a year of service (big savings over one year’s service for two traditional lines) I got the Ethernet cables, I got the phone cords and previously, I brought an old landline phone I wasn’t using to the new office.

Now it’s 8pm, I have to leave for the office at seven in the morning and I realize I have everything I need to set things up except for . . . the second phone! It’s 8pm, most of the local stores are already shut down and if you haven’t noticed, those old landline phones are getting harder and harder to find.

To the rescue comes Amazon Now! It was only $15 for a landline phone (I had to pad the order with a bathroom scale and a 6 pack of ramen noodles to get the total up over the minimum $30) and it’ll be delivered to my door in 2 to 4 hours. Thank you, Amazon Now!

Having just launched the service, So. Cal. is one of only five areas in the U.S. which Amazon Now is serving, but what a convenience! It’s 8pm, and I can head up to the office long before the rest of the retail stores open and not have to worry about stopping off and trying to figure out who even sells those old school phones anyways.

With Black Friday, we already see that year after year, people are avoiding the crush of the crowds and that more of the money spent is being spent online. Just imagine what will happen when Amazon Now expands itself to bigger swaths of the country and more and more people can see an online order as not something that will arrive day after tomorrow, but two hours from now?

When Jeff Bezos’ dream of drone delivery passes federal regulations and you have a bunch of drone jockeys in a bunker bypassing traffic to fly straight through the air from point A to point B, then you’ll have Amazon Now as reliable out in the rural areas as it is here in So. Cal.

It’s all good and awesome from my perspective as a consumer, but I can only wonder, when you can get your goods from Amazon Now delivered in a couple hours to your door, what’s going to happen to all those brick and mortar businesses? What’s going to happen to all those stores in the shopping malls and the strip malls? Are we going to be living in a wasteland of abandoned plots and plummeting real estate values for the strip malls?

I have this vision where we’ll all be living in a future where everything can be delivered to your door in under two hours, but we’ll all be driving around towns that will look something like this:


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The Ugly Truth About Yelp

Today, I saw a lot of news organizations running stories about Yelp suing South Park for $10 million dollars for lampooning the company in their latest episode. Unfortunately for those news organizations, the story which had briefly topped Google News just isn’t true.

A Yelp spokesperson says the company isn’t actually suing South Park and Comedy Central, and reports of the news came from a hoax site, which Google News briefly attributed to NBC. “We have no interest in legal action against the fantastic team that makes the South Park magic happen,” the spokesperson told Eater.

source: The Week

Those news organizations may have gotten scammed, but it’s nothing compared to the scam Yelp ran for many years on businesses and the public at large.

The scam Yelp was running was so blatant, I really can’t believe they got away with it for as long as they did. Basically, the way it worked was that as a business, if you were willing to sign up for a business account and pay the monthly fee, then any time you would receive a negative review, it was as simple as a phone call to your Yelp account manager to get that review removed.

By the time the company I was working for decided to quit paying Yelp for their service (a more accurate term might be “extortion fees”) we had a total of 34 reviews removed from the front page and buried behind a small link that called them “other reviews that are not currently recommended” (and thus, were not factored into our Yelp score).

Of course, that all was exposed to the public at large when Yelp was sued for their extortion schemes and people realized not only were businesses forced into a paying into the equivalent of a mafia-style protection scam but that because of this, Yelp was completely unreliable as a service to everyone else looking to vet businesses.

Rumor has it that all the lawsuits filed against them forced them to reconsider their tactics, but after all the sleazy practices that I saw running rampant in that organization, personally I would never, ever trust Yelp for an opinion on anything.

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I’ve been an Amazon Prime member for years. I was worth it to me when it was $75 / year, and it’s been worth it the last two years as a $100 / year service.

When I’m shopping for the best possible price on just about anything, no way do I want to waste gas driving all over town when I can compare ten or twenty online retailers in a matter of a couple clicks. More often than not, I find the best price is at Amazon, and as an Amazon Prime member, it arrives in two days (Sundays deliveries included) for zero dollars.

Well, I heard about Amazon testing a two-hour delivery service about a year ago in New York, they added Seattle, and now, for those of my friends in the So. Cal. area, it’s here and it is legit.

I’m making progress on my waistline, so I ordered a new pair of Dickies chino work pants, my wallet was disintegrating, so I got a Raiders tri-fold wallet, I needed another guitar cable, got that and I was up to $47. Well, they had a coupon for $20 of a $50 order, so I padded that order with two 6-packs of ramen noodles and hit the $50 mark. They automatically add a $5.00 tip which you can change if you’re feeling extra generous or somewhat stingy, but I left it at $5.00 and with tax it was $38.

I placed the order at just a bit after 11:00 and they had a one-hour option as well, which I’m sure would have cost a bit extra, so I went with the standard two-hour delivery, which gave me a time frame of 12:00 to 2:00, which technically would have made it scheduled to arrive within 1 to 3 hours. Sure enough, at one o’clock on the dot, there was the knock at the door, just under two hours from my placing the order.

Granted, it’s a subset of the gazillion things offered by Amazon, but as you can see from my order – pair of pants, wallet, guitar cable, ramen noodes, the categories are all there. If you’re busy working, on a Netflix binge, too drunk to drive or whatever, the fact that Amazon can bring you a good selection of what they carry in just a couple hours is just one more reason to believe we’re living in wondrous times. Order now, my So. Cal. friends and hopefully the service will be a success that keeps spreading to other regions.

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Outside of flagging down three hombres to help me carry my daughter like an Egyptian princess in her wheelchair 40 yards down the beach to reach the glass bottom boat ride, my favorite part of our Cabo vacation was definitely the fishing trip.

01-fishing-departure 02-departure

It was still dark when we arrived and the sun was just beginning to rise as we headed out of the harbor. It seemed like the boat had just barely got wet when Jesse got a tug and began a good ten minute battle reeling in a beautiful dorado.


I had read how the dorado changes color from a neon green or gold in the water to random processions of silver, blue, gold again or dark green when you bring them aboard, but it’s one thing to read about it, quite another to see it in person.

So right off the bat, Jesse was just beaming, “AH, the open water, I love it!” Yeah sure, the guy who just made his catch is laughing and cracking jokes and loving life, but I’m looking at Richie and I can tell he’s seething just the same as I am, we’re trying to keep it in check, but we’re both staring intently at the ocean and all we can think of is my fish is the next one out there and I’m going to get it so help me God.

It was a good hour before Richie got his bite, his dorado was just slightly smaller than Jesse’s fifteen pounder, but out of the three of us, Richie was by far the more experienced fisherman and he made quick work of it, reeling it in like a pro in maybe half the time it took Jesse.


After a good couple hours, we had made our way far down the coast and we began the return back from our half-day tour. Mentally, I began preparing myself for the possibility of being the only one to come back empty-handed and I began trying to remind myself that grown men are not allowed to feel sorry for themselves or sniffle and pout.

I finally got a bite, but the little thief had managed to help himself to a free sample of my bait. The next time I got a bite, the sucker managed to get the entire fish off my hook.

Now I was getting despondent, just trying to keep my facial expression in check, but then came the next bite. It was my first time fishing, but Richie was coaching me quite well, pull that fishing pole back and in the very next motion, start reeling in the slack you created with the pull. I did this and then did it again, but then I noticed there was very little resistance, in fact, I didn’t even need to pull back and fight it, I could just reel and reel and reel it in I did.

It was a tiny little fish, they call it a bonita and it was quite beautiful, but I felt ridiculous with my little fish comparing it to the 15- and 12-pound catches my friends had made – so I made a joke of it, posing for the photo with an aggro “HELL YEAH, MAN!” look on my face.


At least I’d caught something though, I told myself, but my friends were cool and they said don’t worry, next bite we get, that one’s yours as well.

It ended up being a beautiful dorado, somewhere between the size of Richie’s and Jesse’s. He put up a good fight, leaping up out of the water at least three times. It was a glorious thing bringing him aboard and in that moment, right there, my very first time out fishing and I was hooked. I’m already wondering where we can find fishing excursions here in So. Cal. that can compare to the fishing trip we had in Cabo.


Coming back to our Villa, we realized we had done things completely backwards – we waited to go out fishing until our last full day and now we had three dorados and a bonita sitting in ice in our kitchen sink and just a matter of hours before we left in the morning.

Well, even that part of it ended up beautifully. I’d been frequenting the gift shop at the resort regularly for a daily supply of beer and I told the lady there that we had some extra food we couldn’t bring home and I asked her if she was interested. She seemed not interested at all, but she asked, what do you have? I told her we had a dorado. You should have seen the way her face lighted up when I mentioned the word dorado! So I was very happy to give her my catch. (It also hit me pretty hard to imagine that all the people working at the resort were living right there at the Bay of Cortez and yet a fishing expedition or even fresh dorado at the market was like a luxury they couldn’t afford.)

Richie’s dorado went to the resort’s pool guy Paul who we had a lot of fun hanging out with and the final dorado worked out for everyone, because the sushi guy at the restaurant island in the middle of the pool was more than happy to take the bottom half of the fish in exchange for filleting the rest of the fish and making some sushi out of it.

Dorado sushi just an hour from having been swimming in the ocean – it was the best fish I’ve ever tasted.

Oh yeah, it was just my first time, but I can claim it with full sincerity: ¡Soy un pescador!

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Fireworks at Lake ElsinoreI’ve had more than my share of encounters with the police, most of them under pretty mundane circumstances and definitely none of them ever came close to the seriousness of what I was accused of last night.

The day before, we headed out to go camping for the Fourth of July weekend at Lake Elsinore with my buddy Jesse and his daughter, his friend Edgar and Edgar’s girlfriend. At 104 degrees, it was hot enough to make your brain feel mushy as you walked around the camp site and it was all I could do to drink enough beer to stay ahead of the heat. In heat like that, you don’t even get buzzed, you drink your beers down and then just sweat them all right back out.

As the night drew upon us, we settled in for the fireworks show. After a life spent of watching city-approved fireworks shows, this time we happened to set up camp on the opposite side of the lake from the official show and instead we were treated to a show that California fireworks law could only classify as neither safe or sane. A lot of people must have sunk a lot of money into fireworks and it was fun because you never knew where the next volley of fireworks was going to come from.

So yesterday, it was Sunday, the fifth of July, my friends left for home along with the vast majority of the couple hundred other campers and by 5pm when the guy on the golf cart began making the rounds to check to see who had paid through Sunday night and who needed to get on their way, we had gone from half a football field of tents and vehicles to only our family and maybe half-a-dozen scattered other groups of campers.

The night before, the air mattress had lost its air and we were flat on the ground by the morning, so this night we left the tent to sleep in the SUV. We were fast asleep when a knock came on the window around midnight. It was the Sheriff. That will jolt you awake in an instant. I put the window down. “Yes, officer?”

“We had a report of a dead body being dumped in your car.”

“A dead body?”

“Yes.” The sheriff has his flashlight on me, his partner had his flashlight scanning up and down through the vehicle.

“A dead body?”


I was flabbergasted, but after the initial shock wore off, I was able to piece it together. “Someone must have seen me placing my paraplegic daughter in the car. As you can see, she’s alive and doing just fine.” And right on queue, little Megan chimes in with a big happy, “Ahhhh!”

The cop began apologizing, I said no worries and I told him he was just doing his job, but even after I said that, he still apologized two more times. It’s a rare thing indeed to see a police officer that apologetic, but Megan has a way of making even the toughest guys tender like that.

After the sheriff left, my wife and I just looked at each other bewildered and shaking our heads and then we began laughing. We wondered how on Earth anyone misinterpret the scene like that, but then I thought about how it was dusk when I put Megan in the car and how the half-light might give a sinister look to things, and then we both laughed as we imagined the absolute horror those other campers must have been experiencing if they really believed what they thought they were witnessing to the point of calling in the cops! “OH MY GOD, THEY’RE PUTTING A DEAD BODY IN THE CAR!”

Wow, my life has had some pretty crazy twists and turns, but never in my life would I have imagined getting fingered for a murder.

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