Note:

This blog is now retired. My new site is at: Predictably Irrational.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Where Were You?

Photo of East Coast Earthquake Devastation
Yes, twitter and Facebook was abuzz about the "big" earthquake on the East Coast. But you know what? It was big. Not big as in massive but big in the fact that, who the fuck thinks an earthquake would ever hit Cary, North Carolina?

I was in an observation room with three other people, observing someone in another room go through a usability test. And then a low grumble sound is heard and the ground starts shaking. It feels and sounds like a big dolly with equipment on it going by the door. So for the first few initial seconds, no one reacts. But when the shaking and grumbling never ends? I look at my three cohorts and say "I think we are having an earthquake." And even as I said it, I thought how stupid I was to utter it out loud, as one person says "nooooo..." We hear the participant through the video feed say something like "I don't know why the floor is shaking..." and it becomes the first clue that this wasn't as isolated as we might have thought. It didn't take too long afterward to figure out (thank-you-twitter-for-providing-first-hand-accounts-before-the-news-ever-will) that we had experienced an amazing phenomenon.

So mock us if you must, you people who think we are making a big deal out of an earthquake. It's pretty wild and a thrill because, well, quite honestly, I survived; we all survived. We can all look back and laugh at the oddity of it but it *is* one of the oddest things that nature could have thrown this way...and as I read a status update on FB, it *is* eerie that Colorado just happened to also have a significant earthquake on the same day. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Workout Partner

Today is a significant day for me: I went to the gym with CJ. My little baby is now working out on actual gym equipment!!

My workplace offers a teen weight training program for teens 13 and up. Last weekend was her orientation so she is now eligible to use the gym equipment and racquetball rooms. She's been asking me to take her for about a week and despite the fact that I got home about 5:30, I decided I was going to make it work today. The hours are limited for teen training: only 6:30-7:30.

We made it about 6:45. We spent a good 5 minutes trying to get my old running iPod around her arm (vs. the original choice of using my iTouch...but without an armband)...but her arm is tiny so it wouldn't stay on. So guess which one she ended up using?

Then we spent 10 minutes looking for her Teen Training card and bracelet she is supposed to wear while she's in the gym. I think the orientation told her where it was but because she's only 13, she had no idea (in one ear, out the other?). So I shuffled through three different places, looking for her card and finally asked the front desk, to which we discovered they keep those cards _there_.

Finally, we get to start...I hit the treadmill, she hits one...on the other end of the cardio room. I hit the weight room and I see an old friend who says he cannot BELIEVE this is my daughter...he remembers seeing her >this high<. I know, right? And now we are working out together!  He said, you know how I know she's your daughter? And I'm thinking he's going to tell me because she looks so much like me, as most people say. But instead he said: because she was on one end of the room and you were on the other. :)

I was so tickled watching her do her exercises. I kept sneaking peeks at her. It's pretty pretty cool *and* I got my weight workout in. :)

Afterward, we went to the racquetball room and played a bit of wallyball/volleyball. I reserved the room for Wednesday when we'll be back. :)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Is There Still Hope?

We have been with AT&T U-Verse for at least two and a half years. Over those years, I have had to contact support several times.

When we got back from our vacation in Florida, the girls and I noticed that our reception on our bedroom receivers were freezing and skipping...like every five seconds. I could shut it down and start it back up and it would be a good picture for about 10-15 minutes, then it would go on again. This is not good for someone who likes her TV.

We also noticed that our internet was sluggish: like we had 20 people in the house on a dial-up.

Today I finally set up time out of my day to contact the support team. In the past, the service has been rote: did you do this? did you do that? will you do this again? will you do that again? I know all the steps by heart. I hate going through the same things again when I have already been there done that.

One very cool thing about AT&T support is the chat. I hate the phone. I don't like talking on the phone. If I could do everything by email, IM or text, I'd be a happy camper. I got on the chat and within about 20 minutes, I finally got a "live" person.

The thing I have always had with U-Verse support contact? Extremely friendly service. Both by phone or by chat.  I tell them my issue and they apologize for my trouble and inconvenience and they will do everything they can to resolve my issue.

And guess what? They do.

The chat guy said that we would get a technician tomorrow between 12-4. His mistake was that the technician actually came out today from 12-4. I "hung up" with the chat support person at 11:40AM.

What did he do? He looked at my main DVR unit, checked the cabling, went to each of the other rooms where we had receivers and checked them out. Two of the receivers, he replaced cabling. I mentioned that our network was sluggish, to which he said, after working on the receivers for about 40 minutes, 'your modem is old; I'll just replace it with our new ones'. I also asked if he had extra remotes since my daughters lost theirs; he brought us four (for each receiver).

He replaced the modem and reconfigured our network. He also set up the main remote control for us. I asked him if he had a name and address that I could contact someone to express how great a job he did. He said 'that's not necessary. you may get a survey tomorrow.'

Every time we have had to contact someone, we get near instant help. Today was the first day I waited a bit longer for help via chat. But it certainly was the fastest in regard to having a technician come out to look at our line and equipment.

These guys are fricking technical too. They aren't the Geek Squad from Best Buy, these are people that I could hang with.

This service is 100% the complete OPPOSITE of what I got from Time Warner. We were always on hold for much longer and the person on the other line? NEVER NICE. Almost like 'why the hell are you bugging me' attitude. I had to return my DVRs at least twice for replacements. I remember the last scenario very well:
Drive clear across town to their office.
Enter.
Wait in line.
Watch one person working, shuffling along as though this was the last place on earth they ever wanted to be in.
Facial expression is the lamest, most dreadful, "i-don't-want-any-shit-from-you" face one could put on.
When it's my turn, a give an enthusiastic hello and smile (because I always seem to think I'm different and will make a positive difference to every person I meet)...to which I get 'help ya?'
I explain my problem, hand over the DVR, she literally tosses the DVR in a drawer with others, then pulls out a different one and hands it to me.
I noted that the model number appeared to be a lower number than the one I turned in.
Doesn't matter, she says.
I sign the paper work and I'm on my way to hook it all up myself.

I have never touched anything on my AT&T equipment, except the power off/on on my DVR. The techs, or my hardware guy (AKA Tim) are the only two who have done more than I have...and Tim, only because he moves the equipment around to get a better "stack".

I am impressed. And this is the kind of service that I would never have expected because who delivers this kind of customer service anymore? It's just unheard of. Especially from a megacorp like AT&T. I hope I didn't curse myself and it goes downhill from here on out.

One thing I did notice is the technician had an iPad. He used it to get the network set up on our modem. This is one of my recent projects at work: researching how people use tablets...and then there's the curiosity of how people use this for actual work vs. being just a consumer and viewing things. I sat near him, looking over his shoulder, watching him do his work, looking at the software. He was soooo nice to accommodate my geeky curiosity. And I now, not only do I have a new modem, new remotes, new cables...I now have new information that I can use at work.

That's how all customer support should work all the time...and then some.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Imp

No, this isn't Tyrion Lannister from the A Song of Ice and Fire series. This is my very cute and precocious 8 year old, MiMi.

I came home Wednesday with a morose looking MiMi, handing me a sticky note.
For those who can't read the image, this is what it says:
Today MiMi thought it was appropriate to threaten CJ with the bleach water (and me when I tried to intervene). I though y'all should be aware that she may try this agains, as she found it a funny *rather than serious) situation.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Que-SHA

Tuesday, we all went to the Ke$ha concert at Raleigh Amphitheater. It was pretty cool - at least once Ke$ha took the stage. The two opening acts? Not so much.

To be fair, one of the acts, LMFAO, has the number one single in our country. They were "fun" and brought a lot of life to the crowd. We first saw them on SYTYCD a few weeks ago and I wasn't really impressed. I thought they were Black Eyed Peas wannabes. This may be a passing fancy but for the moment, they did what they needed to do, which was get the crowd excited for Ke$ha. But watching not-so-fit men jump around underwear was not quite appealing. They did have *one* hot girl dancing but it seemed almost, um, disturbing and scary to see a dozen men on stage with one scantily clad girl.

The very first act, I have no idea who they were. But it was a dude or two on turntables and two guys rapping into the microphone. A lot of cussing. They were no Kanye. I doubt we will hear from them again in the near future.

Ke$sha was awesome. She sang her entire set. She had a real life band playing. She danced. She was just too cool. I am a fan of this pop trash princess. Her songs are fun and catchy. Her lyrics are brilliantly funny-in-a-cool way. And she sings about celebrating youth. I love that. She's not deep. Just get up and party music. She ended her set with her cover of the Beastie Boy's "fight for your right to party".

It was a great way to see the youth of America...or at least Raleigh. There were Ke$has everywhere: hair, makeup and glitter. If you are not aware, Ke$ha is all about glitter. One guy, a Paul Bunyan look-alike with 40 lbs. on him, was one of the main attractions. Girls everywhere were getting their picture taken with him - he had glitter all in his beard and a non-descript shirt on with "I went down on Ke$ha" on it. Really? You want a picture with _that_ guy?

I saw a few teens smoking pot. And when the show was over, I felt a tap on my shoulder and I turned around to hear a very inebriated girl tell me (use your drunk accent...or ask me to reenact it for you): "I just have to tell you that you are so awesome. My parents took me to see bands like Bon Jovi and it was so awesome. You're kids are so lucky to have an awesome mom." She went on longer but I don't remember everything else she said. It was very sweet and I thought it came from a great place despite the fact that she was, well, drunk.

There are some things, however, that are quite unsightly. Like the Paul Bunyan guy with the crass shirt...and this woman, who thought this was a fashion hit? Granted, I was the one that showed up to a concert with my granny panties...but that was by accident. This woman certainly wore this to this concert on purpose. And yes, that is a sweat stain.

Monday, August 08, 2011

Circle Me

I have been using google+ for a few weeks now. It is yet another social networking tool...this one, however, is comparable to Facebook. For me, that was a big deal: I like Facebook and I certainly dont want to invest anytime in ramping up on another tool.

But I am liking this idea of circles. Basically, it's a management of your friends. This was originally a design that Paul Adams helped developed when he worked for google.

His research indicated that most people only deal with 4-6 friends at a time, in varying circles of friends. Think your book club, which is different than the people you meet with to play poker, who are not part of your kid's kindergarten class. So why would you want to share the fact that you loved how the guy from American Gods (novel) beat the crap out of someone with your daycare playgroup? But if you did post it on Facebook, everyone would see it. Or maybe you won't post it, no matter how much you'd love to share this with people from your book club, because you don't want to offend the 400 other friends that are not your book club friends.

While technically, I don't care who reads my stuff or who I may offend, I appreciate the ability to control who can see what. My blog posts? I am OK with publicly posting everything. But some of my twitter posts? I'd prefer to keep them in context. Meaning, if I tried out a new restaurant in Raleigh, then I'd rather post how much I loved it and have my Raleigh-area friends got 'hmmm...that sounds good', or 'that placed sucked for me'. But I doubt that my family in London care to read about the fabulous chopped BBQ I had.

Paul's presentation was pretty cool. You can see his slide deck here, sans his amazing personality at presenting it. The irony about this? Not only did Paul Adams help develop the concept of circles for google, he also came up with a critical assessment of Facebook's way of dealing with social networks, which I just summarized for you above. Guess where he works now? Facebook.

We're a long way away from seeing how G+ will fare. So far, I am over there with a handful of people and it certainly isn't as busy as FB is. I am limited to what I can post to G+ while mobile because I don't have a smartphone and the technology I do have: xoom, iPad, and itouch, are limited to whatever wifi I come across (no 3G for me). The only way I can post while away from computerized devices, as far as I know - and technology changes fairly quickly - is to send a text message to twitter, which I can then choose to send straight to FB too. That's disappointing...it's like G+ refuses to acknowledge a more basic way of communication - text messaging, which is still hugely popular - which lends me to take 100 points away from Gryffin...um, I mean, Google.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Rejoice

I passed by a church today that had a sign about a workshop, or maybe the Sunday sermon, that said something like "How to love your Muslim neighbor".

It had me thinking: you know: I don't need a god-damn church to tell me how to love my Muslim neighbor. And why does anyone need a fucking church to tell you it's OK? What is wrong with a person that feels they need to be in a group, "community", of people to tell them how to appreciate another race/religion? What is wrong with the people that came up with this as a subject of discussion? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?  Do you actually need someone of some religious organization to tell you how it's OK to NOT be prejudiced, racist, or any of the other ways to hate?

The CABs of CPR

Today I spent most of my day relearning the latest and greatest CPR and First Aid techniques. While I certainly could have thought of other things I could do to while away my afternoon, I have to admit this is one of the more better training programs I have attended with regard to CPR.

Why CPR? Well, first of all,  I think *everyone* should take a CPR class. Every couple years. Get "certified". The "rules" change every five years and it's just good to know what you should do 'just in case'. So just a few months ago (or maybe it was a year ago), the "new" rule is CAB: compression, airway, breath. Meaning: do compression (30 in 30 seconds), make the airway open, then two breaths, then back to compression... It used to be ABC.

You also learn how to use an AED, the varying types of masks that are available for use to avoid germs and you know, a refresher course is just good for the mind.

The other answer to "why CPR" is that I will be back to coaching for Girls on the Run (GOTR) this fall. I did it in 2007 for the Spring and Fall and I absolutely loved it. It was too much for me to coach and help CJ with her own GOTR program (she was in a different program) that I decided to not do it starting the following year. I really loved it and I was sad to stop but I'm going to give it a go again.

It'll begin in September. I'm looking forward to it. MiMi will be part of the program, the program in which I will be involved with...which, when I did it in 2007, it was frowned upon to work with your own daughters. But I mentioned this when I signed up and apparently, it's OK this time. A stronger need for volunteers, I guess.

Leap of Faith

I have been watching ABC's Expedition Impossible's first season with growing appreciation.

I enjoy TV. I watch almost everything at least once. And frown all of you must but it makes no difference to me. I LOVE TV. I was born in the right generation.

The show is about teams of three people trekking across Morocco. And for people like me who didn't know, Morocco is nothing but desert. Well, and then there are snowy mountains.  Dry sandy desert crossing into snowy mountains. 

The expedition is not like The Amazing Race. These are actual grueling, physical activities: rappelling, hiking, climbing mountains, skydiving, etc. It is similar to those multi-day expeditions I used to watch on some forgetful nature channel. The show is probably not as flashy as Survivor or The Amazing Race but it definitely has a different take on "reality" TV.

One team I enjoy greatly is called No Limits. The team consists of three friends, one who is totally blind. Watching the expeditions for each episode, it is nearly impossible to be blind to do any of them. Kayaking down a rapid river, finding visual clues, swimming, digging for water, there is roughly NOTHING involved that doesn't involve some use of vision.

And yet, this team comes in within the top five, mainly top three, in each leg. Why? Blind trust. The friend, Jeff, has been the "eyes" for blind friend Erik for years. And they all manage to work well together to get through these not-for-the-visually-impaired (or physically) successfully. But this episode really gave me the goose/chill bumps/pimples.

Team members have to jump off a cliff-with-a-waterfall into the water below. Jeff tells the camera moments before this clip, that he has been there for Erik all these years and how Erik trusts him unconditionally. And then? Erik climbs down this cliff on Jeff's directions...it's freaky, it's scary, it's mind-blowing...and it's unbelievably inspiring: to have someone care so much about another person (both sides) and trust them entirely (again, both sides). I love these people.