Monthly Archives: March 2009

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A case for competency

Every wonder how companies manage to stay in business after totally shafting their customers? Companies do it all the time… say one thing and do another. Or just not do what they say they will. Or better yet, do something they say this will not. It is bound to happen, as long as humans are involved with the process, that mistakes will occur.

I have been the on the business end of a few bad customer experiences myself, but none have been as awesome as that of George Vaccaro, the poor soul that could not find a single Verizon customer service rep that would attest to a difference between 0.002 dollars and 0.002 cents. This dude had the wherewithal to record two of his conversations with Verizon when he was erroneously charged for data transfers while in Canada.

For the record, a friend of mine, Matthew Turland, posted a link to the xkcd.com posting of this issue on Facebook and after reading the initial blub I decided to listen to the audio. At 27 minutes it weighed in pretty hefty, but since it was only audio I figured I could still work while it was playing.

I was a little wrong on that. Not because I couldn’t work while listening. No, it was more because I couldn’t work while laughing so hard. The seemingly mindless drones that work for Verizon (or worked for them) could not answer in the affirmative the question of “Is 0.002 dollars the same as 0.002 cents?”. Not the first level representative, not the level 2, not the supervisor. It was freaking awesome.

Which kinda goes to show you that you can succeed in business even if you are a dumb as a bag of hammers. If you can answer a phone and charge people for anything you want and for any amount you want, contract or not, then you are well on your way to millions. They may not be reliable millions, but do you really need to be concerned with that? 0.002 doctors would say probably not.

Friday funny

Sometimes you just need something to laugh at on a Friday. I introduce you to Bizkit, the sleepwalking, er, running, dog:

No, you won’t go straight to hell for laughing at that poor creature run headlong into a wall after waking up from a dream in which he was obviously running after something. But if you play it back again and again and again, well then, I can’t be so sure.

Now this one here I especially love because, if you look at his head about halfway through, you can telling he is hauling butt in his dream. He is moving so fast that he actually moves himself in a circle. How awesome is that? Of course that belligerent look at the end is pretty funny too:

Speaking of belligerence, this poor guy can’t seem to snap out of this dream. He is actually standing up barking in his sleep:

Yeah, we all need a little something something to laugh at this Friday.

Microsoft Expression Web Super Preview

I just read an article on ZDNet that mentioned a recent “showing off” of Expression Web SuperPreview by Microsoft. SuperPreview allows web developers to view and debug web output and rendering as it would appear in Internet Explorer 6, 7 and 8. And I can’t help but wonder… why would we need a tool to check rendering if Microsoft actually handled rendering properly to begin with?

I am glad they have introduced this tool. Before this you had to install an application that would literally install multiple versions of IE on your machine. Then you would need to load your page in a new instance of whatever version you wanted to test. That really sucked. So having the option to inspect your rendering in one app across multiple versions of IE is definitely a boon. But still, why should you have to do that?

And speaking of browsers, a friend of mine the a few weeks back brought up a point that I still enjoy… why are we still coding for browser based output anyway? The web as we know it is totally breaking out of the browser. Why are there still cross-browser compatibility issues and rendering problems?

While I applaud Microsoft on their efforts to help developers code for their broken, crappy, waste-of-software browser, I think I am leaning more towards my friend’s way of thinking. Maybe it is time to start thinking outside the browser box?

Regardless, if you are a developer developing on Windows and you need a tool that will help you see how things are going to work for you in IE 6, 7 and 8, this might be the tool for you.

The sanctity of the toilet

Webster’s defines sanctity as:

1: holiness of life and character [godliness]
2a: the quality or state of being holy or sacred [inviolability]
2b: (plural) – sacred objects, obligations, or rights

I noticed something the other day… well, let me rephrase that… I had an epiphany the other day about something that I have done for a while now but only recently have come to appreciate. Taking time, when I get home, to go to the bathroom.

Ok, before you get grossed out over what I just said, understand that the bathroom, for me, is a sanctuary. A getaway, if you will. My place to go to gather my wits about me, perhaps catch up on a few emails or just generally avoid the noise that is the Gonzalez house as soon as I walk in the door. Sitting on the toilet, even if I don’t have to do anything toilety, is my zen moment, my place of relaxation and quiet, my focus time, my time to center. So my toilet is a sacred object. No, not an idol, but something that means a lot to me.

Of course you can probably surmise that I have very few hobbies. In fact most of my identity revolves around my family. I don’t hunt, fish, ski, gamble, work out or anything to occupy my time, so my one real outlet, outside of work, is my toilet. And to be honest, I think every man needs a place like this.

If it weren’t for my toilet I would be a bear to live with. I’d be cranky, irritable, grouchy and generally of an unpleasant disposition. So as long as my toilet and I have a little time together every afternoon life in the Gonzalez house goes smoothly. But take my toilet time away from me and boy, look out.

There could be a heavy load of crap to deal with if that ever happens.

Going green

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

I am not much for celebrating holidays with the word “saint” in the name of it, but since today really revolves around beer, green cookies and more beer, I thought I would participate.

Not to mention the fact that today is one of my cousins’ birthday (happy birthday Rachel *waves*). So that, plus the fact that I get to break out the green font, means that today is a day to celebrate.

Go have a beer, preferably a Guinness (because it sounds Irish) or a Heineken (because the bottle is green) and celebrate the day with a shamrock, some corned beef & cabbage or just plain old St. Patty’s day tomfoolery. It only comes around once a year. Enjoy it.

Kings, and the folks that love them

NBC launched a new television show called Kings this past Sunday evening. It is a modernized version of the David and Goliath story featuring a new, young actor named Chris Egan. Egan plays a soldier by the name of David Shephard who earns favor with king Silas Benjamin, played by veteran actor Ian McShane by standing up to and staring down an enemy tank code named Goliath. The reason he earns the kings favor? He stared down the tank in order to rescue two fellow soldiers, one of whom is the son of the king.

I like the story line, and the way that it is presented. For a modern, made for TV drama series, the writers did a really good job of pulling in snippets of the real David and Goliath story into this show. I think it helps that they have a Christian actor in Chris Egan as well, who grew up in Phil Pringle’s Christian City Church in Australia and is now staying in Los Angeles but communicating regularly with the pastor the church I attend. Regardless, I applaud NBC for their boldness and willingness to take on a story line like this one. I’m amazed that a network station would step into that.

That said, I think there is a huge untapped market of viewers for all networks that would like to see more shows that involve bible-based stories presented with a modern twist. I think it makes the bible much more relevant when you can see what happened through today’s eyes. Not saying that the TV show is in any way a real reenactment, but applying the world of today to a story from thousands of years ago makes the story from way back when seem a little more understandable.

So if you are into looking at something different, outside the norm or just pretty cool and entertaining, tune in to NBC’s Kings. It is a good story with good acting and a good presentation.

AIG: How to not pay attention to details

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few days you have no doubt heard of the controversy brewing over AIG retention bonuses that are about to be paid out to their executives and other members of the division that has been alleged to be at the heart of our economic melt down. In essence what is at issue is the fact that AIG is stating that it must pay out about $165 million in retention bonuses to executives and other employees because it is contractually obligated to do so. Everyone that is hearing that dribble is asking the same question: “WTF?”.

Somewhere along the lines AIG is claiming that they agreed to pay these bonuses prior to taking any bailout money from the government. They state that they had already had these bonus payment obligations when they secured bailout money and that as a result they have no choice but to issue the bonuses.

“Some of these payments are coming due on March 15, and, quite frankly, AIG’s hands are tied,” [AIG Chairman Edward] Liddy said, adding that he found the arrangements “distasteful.”

Distasteful indeed. Perhaps I am missing something, but doesn’t the US government now own 80% of AIG? And can’t the government, who now owns AIG, renegotiate these “obligations”? It would seem to me that A) when AIG got their first installment of cash from the tax payers that this should have been seen; and B) just because these bonuses were previously promised does not mean that they need to go ahead and be paid.

I am sure that this could potentially pose a hardship to some AIG’s employees, specifically the millionaire executives that helped land our country in the mess we are in (and incidentally who helped facilitate the hardest of hardships that we as a country have faced in the last 60 years). But seriously, employees that suck at doing their jobs as bad as those that did this to our country should not be rewarded for that anyway, so it makes sense to me to put that $165 million to use somewhere else. Perhaps in helping people get out of the crap they are living in.

Regardless, I am glad to see president Obama stepping in and trying to look good in the face of this debacle by trying to block the bonuses. Sadly I think it will be too late to affect any real change in this mess. Still, at least someone in government is trying to upend this thing.

I just wonder who in government dropped the ball on reading through the details when we first agreed to give AIG all this cash. I know that in September of last year, when the government agreed to give AIG $85 billion, both Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi objected to it and criticized the move. Maybe they saw something wrong at the time? Probably not, since they were so on board with the continued bailouts offered by their comrade Barack Obama (bipartisan bishmartisan). Whatever the case, someone in power totally screwed up when throwing all this money toward AIG. It should have never happened to begin with, and now we are faced with trying to keep control over something we had no control over to begin with.

A rather visity Sunday

What a crazy day it has been.

Usually I like to write my posts and thoughts and rants and ramblings in the morning, getting it out of the way and letting the rest of the day provide to fodder for the following day. And I know Sundays are always hard because of church and getting out of the house and trying to pack as much into a day as we can. Today though was quite an active day and it centered mostly around taking the kids places.

It started out with them spending the night at the auntie’s house. We picked them up at church this morning and got them, I got them fed then we had to bolt immediately because they were going to be hanging out with a friend of ours who invited all five of the little munchkins over for a play date this afternoon.

My wife and I decided to use this time to go to the movies and see Paul Blart: Mall Cop. So after rushing out of the house to get the kids to their friend’s house and rushing out of their we rushed to a little taco shop to snag some lunch before rushing to the movie theater. We watched the movie, got out and rushed back to the friend’s house to pick the kids up so we could rush to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, but not before rushing home so my wife could change her shoes.

The shoes needed changing because we were going to be learning how to build a planter box for a garden we are going to build (to be read “a garden area that Robert will be building”) and how to get the soil prepared for this garden. So we got there, but because it was a little late and the weather was a tad jacked up, we rushed through all the gardening stuff, had some cake then rushed home to get dinner going.

Since there was not a single dish in the house clean and the living room, well the entire house actually, looked like someone broke in and ransacked the place, I told the kids they would need to get the living room clean while I got the kitchen clean enough to feed them. But while we were cleaning I felt it right to get a load of laundry going so I set out to do a load of whites and… you guessed it, no bleach.

So it was rush rush rush to the store to get bleach. And since the night was getting later than I wanted it to be to begin with, I just picked up something for the kids to eat for dinner and got home to get it going.

And for a little while, during the quiet that is the halflings stuffing their faces with pizza, I get some down time. And I am spending it, here, with you. And waiting patiently for the end of this day to hurry upon me.

Jim Cramer got schooled by Jon Stewart

Yesterday I read an article and watched a 20 minute (or so) video of an interview that Jon Stewart of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” did with financial expert and entertainment show host Jim Cramer of CNBC’s “Mad Money” and I was left with one overwhelming question: when did Jon Stewart become such a good news person?

He tore into Cramer in a non-confrontational way that sent Cramer backpedaling almost from the opening of the interview. He asked very real, common sense, every day type questions that pretty much all regular folks have been asking for the last year or so. He put Cramer on the spot and never let him out of the corner he backed himself into. It was amazing. At the end of it all it was definitely 10 rounds won by Jon Stewart.

Not there was anything to win. But I think Stewart actually held very little back in asking a very influential man in the world of finance how things got to where they got to and why he (Cramer) seemed to do nothing to prevent it. In fact, it felt less like and interview and more like two dudes talking over a beer at a local pub.

Yes, it was a bit awkward to see Jim Cramer wuss out the way he did. He literally folded from the moment he first opened his mouth. It wasn’t pretty. I would have liked to have seen him be a bit stronger when getting hit as hard as he did. But the bloody, honest truth is that Jon Stewart left very little for Cramer to use as a crutch.

He pulled out video clips of an off-air interview Cramer gave in which he said that he himself had done some of the things that many investors did to put the economy into the place it is in now. He (Cramer) made light of some of the situations people could end up in when investments were finagled the way he did it. It was actually pretty disgusting to hear, and at one point even Jon Stewart told Jim Cramer that hearing him say those things made him angry.

If you haven’t had a chance to see the video yet I have it here. It is about 20 minutes long but well worth the time it takes to watch it. Oh yeah, and you might want to in a place where folks won’t look at you funny for laughing out loud because there are times you will be doing just that.

Since when have the courts become parents?

Someone recently sent me a link to a court case in which a judge ordered homeschooled children into public school based on his decision that the children needed more ‘focus’. This, despite the fact the kids in question had tested above their grade levels.

A North Carolina judge has ordered three children to attend public schools this fall because the homeschooling their mother has provided over the last four years needs to be “challenged.”

The children, however, have tested above their grade levels – by as much as two years.

The decision is raising eyebrows among homeschooling families, and one friend of the mother has launched a website to publicize the issue.

The ruling was made by Judge Ned Mangum of Wake County, who was handling a divorce proceeding for Thomas and Venessa Mills.

I couldn’t believe this was a real and true story. This kind of injustice doesn’t happen in America. Does it? I know judges have an appointed authority to interpret the law and enforce it accordingly, but if you read some of Judge Mangum’s own quotes you can’t help but be left with the same questions I am sure all people who read them have.

How can any judge see this case in the manner in which Judge Mangum is seeing it? How can he favor so heavily in favor of a father that has admittedly committed adultery, repeatedly, and has even gone so far as to admit that he took time away form his kids to pursue relations with his mistress? How can this judge feel as negatively as he does toward Mrs. Mills?

I am astonished by this to be honest. If you are a home schooling parent I would encourage you, if you are not already a member, to become a member of the Home School Legal Defense Association. It is an invaluable resource for home schooling families and something that every home school parent should be a part of.

And if you haven’t yet, stop on by The Homeschool Injustice blog set up by Mills family friend Robyn Williams and offer a word of encouragement to Venessa or support for the case that she is so valiantly fighting right now.