Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Wisdom of Youth

I cut my finger this evening while doing some handyman stuff in the kitchen. Josh was assisting me a little too closely, so I delegated the task of getting a band-aid to him. He agreed only if he could take my flashlight with him as the bathroom was dark. That seemed fair. I handed him the flashlight and off he went. A few seconds later there was a thump and a crash. "Oh, shoot!" This was not followed by any screaming or crying, so I decide to wait and see what happened next. Nothing. Odd. "You all right, Josh?" I called. "I'm a little wet," he answered in a pitiful whine. "How did you get wet?" "Well, I standed on the stool to get a band-aid..." "Um, Josh? There is no stool in the bathroom." "I know. Sadly, I standed on the potty and I fell in."

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

What's the Opposite of Recognition?

I'm honestly not sure what single word could be the antonym of recognition, as in "voice recognition". Why am I fixated on such an important issue when there are bigger and better things to post about? Because I wanted to rant about my cell phone and it's voice recognition feature and I can't do the rant properly without this information. I even went to and used the thesaurus feature. No luck. There are antonyms for recognition, but not in this context. And as we all know, context is king. Or something. Do I make up a word? Let's break it down. "Re" is a prefix typically meaning "again" and the root word "cognition" evokes "thinking". So, re-cognition would literally be to think again. Did anyone else just have a Michael Keaton "Night Shift" moment? I'm so off track here. Let's just go with discognition and an apology from the fine folks at BriWise for an inadequate rant...

Wouldn't it be funny if you clicked and the whole rant was "my voice recognition doesn't"? And that was it? All that buildup for nothing? You'd feel cheated, and we don't want that.

So, in case you hadn't heard, my cell phone has a voice recognition feature. This is not the kind where you record the name and it matches when you say it that way ever after. This phone matches what you say phonetically to the names in your phone book. It's good for hands free car dialing. Or it would be if it worked better. Oh, it works great if I want to call, assuming I knew a Bob Kidd. But trying getting it to recognize Arnold Schwarzenegger. (What? Like I couldn't call the Governator?) So, I have to learn how to say things so the phone will understand. Great. Instead of me training the phone, the phone is training me. This is better how? So, now I have to say names in odd ways. Typically in public. The entry "Bube & Zade" in my phone has to be pronounced "Boob Zehyd". It isn't smart enough to translate the ampersand as 'and'.

All this is annoying, but still manageable as it is a form of recognition. What vexes me is the command recognition. There are only a handful of commands, so it shouldn't be hard. Of course, many things shouldn't be, but are. The most common command is "Name Dial". It even displays that command on the phone screen as soon as you press the command button. And yet, when I say "Name Dial", no matter how slowly or clearly, it says "Calling." Who is it calling? Why the last person I called of course. It thought I said "Redial". It thinks this consistently. Even if I insert a two-to-three second pause between name and dial, it will still redial. And of course, there is no command for "disconnect" or "hang up". So, I have to grab the phone and press and hold a hard-to-press button on the outside phone before it makes the connection. Occasionally, I miss and hang up on someone just as they are saying hello. Then they call back and I have to explain that I am incapable of operating my phone. All of this defeats the point of going hands free.

And yet, fool that I am, I keep pressing the button and saying "Name Dial". Often, I say it like those cliched people trying to communicate with someone who doesn't speak English. If I say name dial loudly and slowly enough, surely my phone will understand. One day, I had to punch in a number for a conference call. It was not in my phone, so it had no associated name. I needed to make the call from my car, though. So, clever person that I am, I dialed manually and hung up. Then I could just tell the phone to redial when I was ready. I pressed the button and announced "Redial". I'm sure I detected a smirk in the mechanized voice as it said "Say the Name".

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Aaron and the Eggs

Over at Aces Full, James was recounting a story about an old prat of a coworker and this tool's idea of a clever joke. I reflected on how the situation would have been handled had he and I been working together at that place. After all, in the past when he and I worked together, we were generally merciless with the arrogant. The whole exchange reminded me of the summer that he, Bull, and I were working at McDonald's together...

One of our fellow crew mates was a fifteen year old named Aaron. He felt cool because he was one of the first fifteens to be allowed to work a regular job under the revised child labor laws. And he got to work at McDonald's. It was a pretty playful environment and we all spent lots of time ragging on each other. He wasn't quite as good at it as we were, particularly when we tag teamed. After one particularly harsh exchange, he vowed revenge. Playful teenage revenge, but revenge nonetheless. Aaron concocted a couple of clever jokes to play on us. He tied my jacket in knots and dropped a rotten tomato in James' hat. Like I said. Clever.

We decided we had to show him what clever truly was. A couple of weeks before, we had played a little egg prank on one of our weekend breakfast shift buddies. We had carefully drained the egg out of a whole tray of eggs. We didn't waste it. We scrambled it and set it aside in the walk-in. Then we carefully put all the eggs back with the open side down and watched the fun as our foil tried to fill the requested order for a dozen McMuffins. There are around sixty-four eggs per tray. James had also taken to writing messages like "Help!" and "Let me out!" on uncracked eggs. So, we were in an egg frame of mind.

Our egg draining technique was well honed by this point. So, we made short work of twenty or so eggs and hid them where Aaron would not notice them. We left all but two empty. Then we waited. Aaron went on break at a fairly slow part of the morning. James was on biscuit detail and I was supposed to be setting things up so we were ready to switch to lunch at change over. Both of us had legitimate reasons to be in the stock room. We might even have had legitimate reasons to be in the door of the break room. But we didn't. We stepped into the door eggs held high and spares cradled in our aprons. Aaron saw us. We paused for effect. "Yeah. Like you guys are gonna throw eggs at me. Psssh." That was our cue. We let fly and he ducked down trying to get under the built-into-the-floor McDonald's table. He got pelted with empty eggs and gradually began to realize he had been had. He sat up. "Ha ha," he said. And stood up to show he was no longer afraid. By this time we had unloaded all but two of our eggs. He stuck out his chest to make a better target. After all, what was the big deal about being hit with empty eggs. We grinned back at him. I let mine go. He barely had enough time to register the shock of being hit with a water filled egg when James' hit him and he disappeared in a cloud of biscuit flour. Biscuit flour and water makes a nasty mess on ones apron. We beat a hasty retreat laughing all the way.

The best part was that the manager on duty thought it was funny. He just asked that we take some time when the rush died down to clean up the egg shells, flour, and water. Ok, that wasn't the best part. The look on Aaron's face as he realized we'd set him up was the best part. Not getting in trouble was a nice bonus.

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Monday, April 24, 2006

Recent Comments Broken

By the way, I noticed this evening that my recent comments feature is busted. It looks like my digest feed went away. I'm looking into it and will get it repaired as soon as I can.


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Maya's Back On Stage

She had an audition for Charlie and the Chocolate factory last Wednesday and made callbacks. They wanted her to read for Veruca, Violet, and Mike Teavee. She was given three monologues to practice and told she would have to perform those as well as do some cold readings. We worked on different interpretations for each character until bedtime and then she kept working when she got home from school the next day. Some of the older girls were a bit shocked that she got called back and told her so openly. She handled it with great aplomb. She ignored them and went to talk to some people who were nice to her. I have to say, I enjoyed all three of her monologues and she got some good applause after each. Still, there were a lot of kids there and we told her not to get her hopes up. She tried psyching herself up for an Oompa Loompa part. We checked for the cast list Friday. Not there. Saturday. Not there. Sunday? Argh! We looked at the calendar and saw that it was scheduled to be posted on Tuesday. We looked today anyway. Here is what we found. In case you don't want to follow the link, she's Mike Teavee!

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

People Suck - II

I'm feeling surly about life still. Ok, not really. But I am up in arms about some stuff. Where's the common sense in this world gone? Where's the customer service? I recently attended a time management class to time management. We are hoping it helps me be more focused and productive at work. One of the things that came out of the class was that I need a planner, as opposed to a PDA. It's interesting that the time management trainer concluded this. He said I was a personality type who would get a Palm, fill it with addresses and data, and then never use it. I'd say he is dead on since that has already happened. But I digress. I needed to get a pen and paper style planner. So, I went to Office Despot knowing full well that finding a 2006 planner was going to be tough, it being April and all. My plan was to find one of the handful of leftover planners they had that was now 1/3 useless and get it at a deep discount. I wanted to make sure it worked for me before I invested in a more serious system...

Luck was with me. I searched for close to half an hour, but found a plain, black, 2006 calendar that had all the features I wanted. It didn't have a price on it, though, and wasn't in the discount aisle. So, I brought it up to the checkout to find out what the damage would be. The woman behind the register was working another task, but stopped to attend to me. The exchange went something like this

Me: Can you please tell me how much this is?
Her: *Boop* Thirteen ninety-nine.
Me: (incredulously) It's not marked down? It's a 2006 planner.
Her: (like I'm a moron) It *is* 2006.
Me: Yes, but we're partway into the year. A third of this planner is useless.
Her: I'm sorry, but that is the price.
Me: There are some planners that run from August '06 to August '07 that are similarly priced. Why would anyone pay the same price for something that is obsolete?
Her: Well, I can't mark it down.

I shook my head and started to walk away. She was a manager. If she didn't have the authority, who did? I was just thinking to myself what a stupid store Office Despot was when she returned to her previously abandoned task. She had a price gun with ornage labels in it and was tagging merchandise. And what did the orange tag mean?

Her: Oh, I'm marking this stuff down.

But no, my disgust was not yet complete. What items was she marking down? 2006 planners.

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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What Time Out Is For

We were in the car driving the other night and I teasingly commented "There are some people in this car who don't understand the meaning of a time out." I was referring to and incident the previous day where my wife and I had a bit of a disagreement and I gave myself a time out to calm down. The trouble was that the door to my time out seemed to be a revolving door, so it was hard for me to move past it. Anyway, I was teasing my wife about it when Maya chimed in. "I know the meaning of a time out." I think she thought I was teasing her. I decided to play along. "You do? Please. Share it with the rest of us." She smiled. "A time out is when you have to go to your room so you don't turn into Dick Cheney." I have no idea where it came from either. Mom decided to press her. "And who is Dick Cheney?" "Well. He's the President''s the word? He's like the assistant President."

So, go to your room when you are sent or you may turn into a surly assistant President. Wonder what political leanings her parents have.

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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

People Suck - I

I finally got around to trying to find a geo-cache. My good friend Chuck had sent a Travel Bug called Petey Cruiser out west to me to see if it could make it all the way across the U.S. on the backs of assorted cachers. For a while it looked grim. Petey puttered around in New England. Howewver, he made it to Jersey and from there jetted his way across the states all the way to Cali. In November, he landed at a spot a mere 20 miles from my house in a park that we have been known to frequent. However, our theater lives were quite busy through March of this year. Finally, we had time to look. I checked the cache to make sure he was still there. I found this message waiting for me in the log:

Update, 1/28/06: I had to mark 4 or 5 Travel Bugs "As Missing" as they were not in the cache. I do not recommend leaving travel bugs here. Either someone is stealing them or cachers are not logging them out. If a TB shows up here, I will remove it and place somewhere safe. End transmission.
So, some dickweed has made off with Chuck's TB. Chuck, I'm sorry I didn't get there to pick it up sooner. Unfortunately, some people just suck.

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Monday, April 17, 2006

Pushing the Envelope

So, we had to come up with a new rule in our house. Josh is only allowed to stuff his "letters" in envelopes that we get in the mail. You know, the postage paid kind that come in credit card offers and such? He can also have the unpaid ones with the address or the little window that come with offers for things you have no interest in buying. He may not use the ones stored in the cupboard under the printer. This rule was not made hastily. At first, we thought it was cute that he wanted to put every note he wrote to us or to his sister. "Der Dad, I luv you. Frum Josh" That wasn't a sample note. That was every note. Cute. For the first few days. However, we began to get alarmed about the volume of envelopes he was writing. We had a box of five hundred. Note I say "had". We implemented the rule in time to save the last ten.

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Friday, April 07, 2006

Guess what this is a picture of

This picture was taken last month and right here in Escondido. Some of you may recognize my back yard. What you may not be used to seeing there is the fine white coating of hail! We actually had a two day on-and-off hail storm. I was out during a portion of it and those suckers sting. Here we see Josh holding a container of hail. He was quite excited about it.

I guess the weather here can occasionally be as odd as it is back east. And when the weather here goes wacky, nobody knows what to do about it.

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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Back. With a Vengeance.

So, Thursday was a particularly unpleasant day for me and left me in a foul mood by the time my commute home had arrived. There were just two little things that were at the root of my foul mood. My mp3 player and my wife's. Both were bought Thanksgiving weekend. Both had 90 day warranties. Both broke at the 120 day mark...

We both have Rios. She has the 256 MB Rio sport, perfect for jogging. I have the 6 MB Carbon Pearl, which is more of a jukebox system. L's Rio has two current flaws. Neither render it non-operational, but both decrease its capability. The battery cover fell off while she was jogging. The bigger problem is the volume control. The decrease button has stopped working. She can increase the volume all the way up, but she can't make it softer. A power-cycle can reset it to the default volume, but that's it. Mine has a slightly more serious problem. The volume wheel popped out of the casing. This wheel also serves navigation functions. Had I just accepted that this was the natural way of things, I might have been fine, but I decided that I could get some help from the store, manufacturer, or credit card company. Oh, the folly of man.

I started with Rio support. I had to call for Out of Warranty "assistance". This consisted of the support person asking me all kinds of irrelevant questions while I tried to interject what the problem was. In the end, she couldn't answer my question. She could only have me navigate to the repair service web page. She could tell me every single link upon which I was supposed to click, but she could not tell me what was contained therein. Perhaps she thought I would despise her less if I found the bitter truth myself. I paid $250 for the two combined. If I wanted Rio to fix them for me, it was going to cost $170 plus shipping! To add insult to injury, a refurbished 256 MB Sport was selling on the site for $39! She asked me if I wanted her to create a case for the Rio Sport as well. I willed my voice to glare at her through the phone. "Is there anything else you need?" I told her that there was, but I think I had gotten all I was going to get. She laughed and agreed with me!!! So, to sum up part 1, Rio sucks and so do their audio players!

I decided to check with Sears and see if they offered any kind of customer service that might alleviate my pain. I went to their website and found a menu item called "Worry Free Shopping". That's what I needed. I had shopped. Apparently it had been worry free. Time to cash in on that worry protection. I had options, too. I could choose from "No Hassle Returns", "We Service What We Sell", or "Satisfaction Guaranteed or Your Money Back". Interestingly, drilling down to the details shows the latter two to be exactly the same thing. And there is no hassle. You just have to return it within 30 days and pay a 15% restocking fee. So, what they mean is "No Hassle for THEM". I don't know about you, but I consider having to pay a fee to return an item that broke a little too quickly under normal wear to be a hassle. I decided to try the service option. After all, how much could it be to have them open the cover and put the wheel back on? (I had already tried unsuccessfully to open it myself. Not like I was going to void the warranty.) So, I called 1-800-4-MY-HOME for electronics help, like they said.

I navigated an annoying voice activated maze of menus, growling displeasure with each new answer. After I answered a dozen or so questions, I was given clearance to wait on hold for the next available representative. I was reminded once every thirty seconds or so how much they appreciated my patience. They appreciated it enough to continually cut into their own commercials to tell me so. Their appreciation was like a steady drip slowly eroding what little patience remained. Finally, when they no longer appreciated me, they let me talk to someone. He cheerfully told me that I wanted a different number for electronics. He cheerfully gave it to me. He cheerfully asked if there was anything else he could do to help me. This raises an interesting question. Which is more annoying, being thanked for patience you don't have or being offered more help from someone who has failed to help you. I stewed as I dialed the other number.

This phone maze was more straightforward. I had two options, warranty or out of warranty. Out of warranty immediately took me to a message informing me that the cost of Sears' "worry free" repair service was a minimum of $159 plus parts. I can see why they weren't worrying. Given the fact that I could buy a new one for that price and a refurbished for less and given the fact that they wanted me to have my credit card ready before they would even find out what was wrong helped me make the easy decision to stream profanity into the phone as I hung it up. To sum up part 2, Sears sucks and so does their "Worry Free" shopping experience!

Two strikes down, I turned to my last option. I'd check with Mastercard to understand how their buyer protection plan might protect me, the buyer. I did an extensive search of their web site and even logged in to my account in the hopes of finding some answers. No luck. I'd have to call another support person. I navigated through another minefield of voice prompts and was reminded often of all the answers I could find on their web site. I entered my card number to "enable us to serve you more quickly". Finally, I was connected to a person or person-like simulacrum. "Can I have your card number again, sir? It's not showing up on my screen." Blah. "Thanks! And your name?" Blah. "And your zip code?" Blah! "And your mother's maiden name?" BLAH! "Ok. I think I have enough information. And how are you today?" Not all that great, to be honest with you. "That's great. Let me just pull up your account here." Lovely. It's great that I'm miserable. This is going to go well. I can tell already. "Now, what can I help you with?" I explain to her that I am just trying to find out about the purchase protection that my card is always touting. "Hmmmmm. I'm not sure, but I think I can find out." Could you? Oh wonderful! "Let's see. It says here that you can have anything that is lost or stolen replaced within 90 days of the purchase date." And if it is outside of the 90 days I'm SOL? Because I purchased two mp3 players 120 days ago and they are both broken. "Was it more than 90 days from the purchase date?" Ummmmm, yeah. "Then the plan won't cover it." Lovely. "Anything else I can help you with today?" Grrrrrrr. "Thank you for calling MBNA. We appreciate your business!" More like you appreciate giving me the business.

So, quick quiz. How many things out there might you purchase that cost enough that you might care about a warranty and yet do not have a warranty of at least 90 days? I couldn't come up with any either. This 'benefit' seems about as useful as a receipt for a donut. So, to sum up part 3, MBNA sucks!

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Wednesday, April 05, 2006


Ladies, you need not read further. This one's for the boys. Last night, Josh made a proclamation that, taken at its purest interpretation, resonates in most of us men. As he chased his sister's friend around the house, planting kisses on her, he shouted, "I'm a girl lover! I'm a girl lover!" We hear you Josh. And we're with you.

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