Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Road Less Travelled

It's amazing the crap you'll do when your bored. I am waiting in St. Louis International Airport for my next flight so I thought I'd take a look at a couple of other Blogspot pages. There is a ton of crap out there. It pretty much validates my stance that blogging is a total waste of time. (funny enough, I posted that post back in 2006 and it still applies).

I did, however, run across something pretty cool in the morass of garbage...the website. The site basically allows you to create a map marking all of the places that you've traveled to. My map is to the right. With a free account, you can update it as it changes. For example, over the course of the next couple of months, I'll be able to add Alaska and Louisiana. My one rule - I would have had to leave the airport for the country/state to count.

When I look at the map, I am struck by how much I HAVEN'T been to. I always thought I was really well traveled, but looking at the map (and the 10% blurb) makes me think that there is still a ton of places to see.

I guess the next website I visit is, to book some travel.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Customer Served

I've posted previously about the lack of customer service or product quality that I have encountered. Because of that fact, I thought it only fair that I post about an excellent customer satisfaction experience that Angie and I recently experienced.

Back in March, I posted about our change from Time Warner to Verizon for all things digital (phone, Internet, and cable). In that post, I commented that the change was precipitated by the lack of customer service exhibited by TWC, more than the service that Verizon had to offer (although, in truth, the fiber optic Internet is FAAAAAAAST!)

However, now that we've had an opportunity to utilize the customer service of Verizon, the change seems to be validated. Back in March, when Verizon connected the house to the fiber at the curb, they unwittingly and unknowingly punctured our sprinkler line. I didn't realize it at the time, and it wasn't until a walk through of the sprinkler system that I discovered the problem. As I saw the water bubbling up from right when the Verizon line came up from the ground and entered the garage, I knew we had a problem.

I told Angie that I'd love to let Verizon know about it, but there is no way they were going to do anything about it. In fact, I was sure they were going to basically say, "Sorry, but there is really nothing we can do about it." I told Angie that if she was interested in calling them to do so, but I wasn't going to waste my time.

Well, a couple of weeks ago she did just that. She called their customer service and they immediately scheduled a contractor to come out and fix the line. She acted all smug because she argued that they would fix it from the beginning. They did - she was right, and I was wrong. This morning, about a week since the repair, a customer service representative called to make sure everything was satisfactory. The perfect conclusion to a very successful customer service interaction.

I guess I've just become too cynical. My livelihood depends on how well not only my engineers serve the customer, but how well I take care of the customer. It seems that Verizon understands this fact, as well.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Working Weekend

On Friday evening the kids (Dylan and Marissa) arrived home from a week away at church camp in Corpus Christi. After catching up on sleep, the work began.

We started slow, as to not burn ourselves out. Saturday's mission: Put up Dylan's ceiling fan. Dylan has been waiting for me to get up on the ladder and hang it - his room get's pretty warm as it is on a sunny corner. As for me, I've been putting it off for two reasons; 1) Hanging ceiling fans is a real pain (I've done six others in the house) and 2) Dylan has a high vaulted ceiling which means I was going to have to go high on the ladder. I have a serious fear of heights, so I was not looking forward to that.

However, as I took my first couple of steps up, it was no big deal. I seriously recommend that if you do not like going up on a ladder, buy the Little Giant. It is the most stable ladder I've ever been on and has freed me up to go where I wouldn't be able to go on a regular ladder.

Because this was my seventh fan (I'm thinking of starting a business hanging ceiling fans) and Dylan was helping, it went up with little difficulty, even if it took several hours. Mission accomplished for Saturday.

Sunday was a different story. I've been wanted to "reclaim" my garage for a while now. In fact, I've been wanting to get the camper out so we can shake it down and use it a couple of times before summer is over. Mission: Clean out the garage, get the camper out, open it up and clean it, and put everything back in its place.

We started after church. It was hot, but I had everyone helping. Dylan and I basically took everything out from one half of the garage and put it on the driveway. Marissa and a friend of hers helped, too. We shop vaccuumed the floor and started on the other side. I finally went through my remaining books that were stored in the garage (Angie took a ride to Half-Price Books and got $24 for all of the ones I no longer wanted). In the end, the garage is completely clean and mostly clutter free. However, we didn't get the camper out...we ran out of time. Since the garage is clean, we can just pull it out next weekend and give it a good overhaul.

I don't know about the kids, but I am all-over sore today. I feel like I worked out a ton yesterday.

The pain won't last, but neither will the order.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Strange Visitor II

In November, I posted about my nephew visiting from NY as he was passing through on a job...yesterday, he did it again.

Paul called me a couple of days ago and said he was coming to pick up a truck in Dallas to drive it back to NYC. "OK", I said. "Tell your boss that your uncle will pick you up, and take you to the truck. And, tell him that you are staying at your uncle's the night and will get on the road early the next day."

He did, and that's what we did.

Now, you have to understand, the kids are completely enraptured by Paul. They think he's cool, funny, and fun. The fact is, he is all of those things. In fact, Paul is so cool that even Justin came over last night to visit with him. They ended up going out and hanging at Justin's apartment until much for getting an early start on the road.

Since Dylan and Marissa are at camp, they missed all of the fun, but Cassie played with Paul as much as she could. She is crazy about him, too. She looked VERY sad when he left.

I think I may have seen a tear in her eye. I tried to console her - she'll see Paul in August and who knows, with his jobs he may be here again soon...

...his love of Sonic may demand it.


Sunday, June 15, 2008

How Sweet The Sound

Angie and I watched Amazing Grace last night. It is the story of William Wilberforce who, as a member of parliament in the early 1800's, fought for the abolition of slavery in Britain.

The movie is fantastic. It is the story of a principled man who desires to change the world, who fights against the popular idea, who is attached as treasonous, who overcomes an illness and ends up persevering. The story is both uplifting in its message as much as it is condemning of the practice of slavery.

Just hearing that a ship which originally leaving Africa with 600 men, women and children would land in the New World with 200 surviving distresses me. I cannot fathom the brutality and the inhumanity. Yet, I wonder if I would have had the same courage as Wilberforce.

In fact, I don't have to wonder if I have the courage - I can look to my actions today to see if I am willing to stand up to popular culture for what I believe to be right. Unfortunately, I find myself lacking and it's convicting. We've been going through a message series at church that also has been addressing this issue. It's been called, "Jesus For President" and the main message is that it doesn't matter if we vote Republican or Democratic, if we are truly following the Kingdom of God with Jesus as our leader. A takeaway from the series is, "We vote every day with our actions." To paraphrase - do others see the way I live, notice that it is different and special, and know that I live my life for God?

Unfortunately, I don't think I can honestly answer this in the affirmative. Thank Him for His amazing grace!


Friday, June 13, 2008

Pictures From Beantown

Dylan posing with the Green Monster. The Monster is Fenway Park's version of left field. Dylan wanted seats up on the Monster, but they were upwards of $2500 PER TICKET!!!!
Paul Revere's House from 1700. Paul and his second wife lived here with some of their children. Paul Revere had 16 children, 8 with each of two wives. 11 grew to adulthood.
The Old North Church. It is from the steeple that the lanterns were hung to warn Paul Revere how the British soldiers would be arriving..."Two if by land, one if by sea". The two laterns still hang in the steeple and the rest is history.
The gun deck of the USS Constitution. I cried when I first saw the ship. If you want to know why, read the book "Six Frigates" by Ian Toll. Over 300 men and boys have died serving on this ship. The victories of this ship (33 wins, zero losses in battle) helped shape our nation.
John Hancock's tombstone. Imagine Bill Gates willing to give up both his fortune and his life for liberty...John Hancock was the richest man in the colonies and was an ardent patriot. With amazing men like him, it is no wonder the young nation prospered.
The Old State House. It is from this balcony that the Declaration of Independence was read to the people of Boston. Abigail Adams witnessed and declared that Independence was Born here.
The view of Boston from the harbor as we left on our whale watching cruise. Boston has a beautiful skyline AND is a total walking city. Dylan and I walked basically the entire downtown area.
Humpback mother and calf leaving us after putting on a heck of a show. For 20 minutes the calf breached, jumped, spun, and slapped the water. What a show!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Green Monster

I haven't had a lot of time to blog, but I wanted to share my weekend with Dylan...

As previously discussed, I've decided to go away for weekends with each of the kids this summer - sort of a way to make up for all the travel that I've been doing. Why not use some of those hard earned miles and spend some alone time with each of the kids doing what they chose? Marissa and I were in NY last month, and Dylan and I were in Boston last weekend.

All I have to say is WOW!!! We had a blast. We arrived to cold and rainy Boston on Friday afternoon. After checking into the hotel, we discovered the subway and proceeded to get lost. Although we followed the instructions we were given, the stop was wrong and we ended up having to get back into the subway to get to Fenway. At one point, Dylan suggested just following those in Red Sox garb, and we did. And, he was right, we got to the stadium and saw the Green Monster in person. Although it was cold, we had a GREAT time. The Red Sox got slaughtered, but since neither of us are big fans, it was fine. Dylan has committed that he wants to go to ever major league park in his lifetime. After Houston this summer, he'll have four (Houston, New York Mets, Texas Rangers and Boston).

On Saturday, we decided to see the historical sites of Boston. We again to the subway into the city and purchased a trolley tour. The trolley served two purposes; 1) Show us what we might like to see and, 2) act as a taxi service as we were allowed to board and disembark all day. We took the tour around the city (about an hour) and then proceeded to Dylan's first "want to see", Paul Revere's House. After that we walked and walked and walked (Boston has the "Freedom Trail" marked on the sidewalks and streets, so it is easy to find your way to the monuments); Old North Church, Cobb's Hill Burial Ground, the USS Constitution, Bunker Hill Monument, Old South Meeting House, Granary Burial Ground, etc. etc. We had a blast. One of Dylan's interests is history and he loved every second. We had a tremendous time taking pictures, learning about history and talking about our day.

We decided to have dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe, which Dylan really enjoyed, particularly the wall of symbols along the entire back wall. We returned to our hotel and collapsed.

Sunday, we decided to take it a little more easy. We took a four hour whale watching cruise. After about an hour trip out, we saw them right away. We ended up seeing perhaps seven or eight humpbacks and a couple of glimpses of the more shy Minke Whale. Included in our sightings was a mother/calf pair of humpbacks, and like most children the calf wanted to play. He breached, did turns and slapped the water for about twenty minutes. It was perhaps one of the coolest experiences that either of us had ever had and it was awesome to be able to share it with Dylan. When he got excited and told me that it was one of the coolest things he's ever seen, I knew we had hit pay dirt.

We returned to the hotel, picked up our bags and departed for the airport. We had several hours to wait before our flight, but it was worth it. Another GREAT weekend was had.

Unfortunately, I had to leave for Orlando not 12 hours after returning home from Boston, so I haven't had a chance to tell anyone about the trip. I'll post some pictures as soon as possible.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Red Monster

My Dell XPS 720 Red arrived today...
It is a monster of a computer and right now I couldn't be more pleased. Angie's computer died a couple of weeks ago and it was time to upgrade, so I got a new gaming machine and she gets the more than capable machine I had been using. We'll be replacing some components in her old one and will be making it available to the kids. We are convinced that there the ones who messed hers up anyway.

The amazing thing about the new computer is that it is HUGE!!! The full metallic tower is about a square yard in size and is about 10 inches wide. AND - it's got these cool red LED lights accross the top and along the middle. It is perhaps the coolest looking computer I have ever seen.

And, as I play the Call Of Duty 4's got enough guts to pull it off.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Problems With The TV Reception

I'm gonna go off on product quality in this post...if you aren't interested hearing me vent, go elsewhere now.

What the hell is up with the way things are made today, specifically the quality in which they are made? Have we become such a disposable society that it doesn't matter how long things last, we'll just throw it away and get a new one when they no longer work? I see that attitude somewhat with the kids and frankly, I think we all have it to some degree. If we didn't, Wal-Mart wouldn't be such a retailing force. At the end of the day, price is king and if we get an inexpensive piece of crap, then at least it was cheap. For example, I know for a fact that Wal-Mart "forces" their suppliers to keep prices down. How can a supplier do this? There is only one way, reduce the cost of producing the product. More often than not, that means quality...use a lesser material, perhaps take out a couple of features, get the product from a cheaper part of the world, etc. I learned last semester that Nike decided not to do business with Wal-Mart because they couldn't meet pricing demands while maintaining quality standards.

So, that takes me to the title of my post...Angie treated me to an Emerson 32" flat panel HDTV for my office. We gave the 19" we had previously purchased to Justin for his new apartment. It was the final piece to my man-cave and I was very pleased with it - for about 45 days.

The other day, the TV wouldn't turn on. I unplugged it for a while, but that didn't help. I went online and found other people with the same problem. Some kind of defect in the TV. So, I call the Customer Service center. The rep took my details and gave me the number for a service center (the TV is covered under the warranty - 1 year, and 90 days on labor). The problem was that the number she gave me wasn't for the service center, rather their home office. After getting that straightened, I learned that the service center was a hour away by car. So, that means to get my 45-day old TV fixed, I'd have to basically take a half day from work.

I called Wal-Mart to see if I could get an exchange. Nope! 15 days is the limit there.

So, this morning I buckled my TV in the front seat and took the hour drive to the service center. They have my TV, and I currently have a 13" standby in my office.

I can't keep but thinking that had I spend a little more money on a quality TV from a quality retailer that I wouldn't have had to spend the morning, let along the $20 in gas, to service a BRAND NEW TV. If I would have paid a lot of more money (for like a Sony), would I have gotten better quality? It's why I still go to my dealer for maintenance on my truck...I've convinced that they know my truck better than anyone and by adhering to the manufacturers recommended maintenance schedule, I am prolonging my investment. You can argue that point, but my truck looks and rides like the day I got it.

I'm a little miffed by how far the service center was, as well. Truth be told, I'd pay a little more for convenience...and if I could have repaired the TV on my own for $50, I would have elected to do that locally. My time is just more valuable to me.

Any one else ever think about this? I think for now on, I'm going to buy the things I want to last for a while from somewhere other than a discounter.

I'm just so tired of buying garbage and having to accept it.