Lileks: The city and technology – a stressful combination

  • Article by: JAMES LILEKS , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 25, 2013 - 9:11 PM

You’re sitting outside on a mild summer night when you hear your wife scream from the kitchen. Either a spider riding a rat just ambled across the table, or she’s trying to sign up Daughter for soccer on the city park system’s website. Assuming the latter, you head inside to help.

This! Thing! It! Won’t — Augh! It sends me here! I go there! It sends me back! It …”

There there, you say. I’ll take a look at it tomorrow.

So the next day you call up the page to register. The first search box is called “WHAT,” because apparently it was programmed by an annoyed teen. It asks for a keyword; you put in SOCCER, which should narrow it down, unless the software reads that as “any activity involving a spherical object, including astronomy, which includes the moon.” But so far so good.

There’s an option for “exact match.” You’re hard-pressed to think of a situation where I wouldn’t want a search for SOCCER to yield results that have to do with, you know, soccer, but maybe they also have a Zacher league or a Sochor team.

The next field: “NUMBER.” You have no idea what this means. Team number? Shoe size? Pi? The Powerball? Then it’s “Activity Category,” which includes “Computers and Technology” and “Life Skills.” Yes, I want to search for a league devoted to Soccer Technology.

Next: “DEPARTMENT.” This calls up a list of parks. Remember when you were a kid and your mom said, “It’s a beautiful day — let’s go to the Department!” Right. Then it’s “Search Level,” which is the sort of thing only a programmer could love. The options:

Activities Only / Sub-activities / Activities and Sub-activities

You have no idea if SOCCER is a SUB-ACTIVITY; for that matter, you don’t know what a sub-activity is, unless they’re putting the kids on an underwater vessel in Lake Calhoun.

Next search option: “WHERE.” The LOCATION menu gives you all the parks, which are apparently different from the DEPARTMENTS. You can also search by ZIP code, which is handy; how many times have your children said they want to sign up for soccer, but only if it’s in the 55423 area?

Next search option: “WHEN.” Your options: Future. In progress now. In progress / Future. Since April 2013. Since January 2013. So … I could search for something that began in April? If it’s still going on, wouldn’t that be in progress? If not, why is it an option? You choose “Future” because the future is where we are all going to spend the rest of our lives, as a wise man once said, and look at the next option: “SEASON.” The default option is FALL 2012.

So it’s possible to sign up for something in the past. Did your kid get beat by a particular team last year? Sign up retroactively and be a winner!

Next choice: “TERM.” Which means … well, let’s check the choices. They are: A blank field with a check mark, or: NONE.

OK, skip that. The rest is straightforward — age of the participant, number of search results. You hit SUBMIT.


Remember, you just searched for “soccer” and the name of the park. OK, well, remove the name of the park, just search for soccer.


This is insane, because when your wife searched for soccer it yielded 18 pages of search results. Go back to the main page. Click on SOCCER. Start over.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters






question of the day

Poll: Grade the Vikings draft selections

Weekly Question