That Which is Better than Wicked

One of the best musicians I’ve heard in a long time will be performing in Middleboro next week: Ms. Kayla Ringelheim.  Of course, that’s the weekend I’ll be confined nicely within the Boston city limits (for a change).  I of course already marked her October 17th appearance (with Antje Duvekot) on my calendar.

This is the music that finally got me to stop listening to Wicked incessantly – and if you know me, you know that’s saying a lot.  Of course, you should immediately buy both her albums on iTunes.

The Sighted Leading the Blind

I applaud the Washington Metro’s film Metro Madness: Riding the Metro through a Service Dog’s Perspective – a 3.5 minute film narrated by a service dog riding the Metro.

I particularly enjoy the closing scene where a courteous and enlightened traveler steps aside to let the visually impaired Barbara walk through a fare gate, making the universal “you go ahead” gesture.  Which she can’t see.  Because she’s blind.

(Okay, she’s not completely blind.  As the film points out at the opening, “Many people don’t know that you don’t need to be completely blind to use a leader dog.”)

You ARE the Brute Squad

Something about this FAQ entry amuses me:

Q.  Whom should I notify in the event I cannot appear for juror service?

A. You may call the juror information number (1-800-THE-JURY)…

If you have any trouble, just call The Jury.  There’s only one, and it has an 800 number.

That’s right – three months after I informed the State of Vermont I couldn’t serve on a jury in a state that’s four hours away, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts offered to put me to good use.  I’m even 30% sure they’re aware I’m qualified to serve here based on their e-mail response to me:

The Office of Jury Commissioner has received your submission confirming that you are qualified for juror service, and that you do not wish to change your service date or location.  Your submission will be processed shortly.  In 1-2 business days you will receive a notification that your confirmation has been processed.  Approximately 10 days prior to your scheduled service we will mail you a Reminder Notice.

It’s really quite clear. First they sent me a confirmation that I’ve submitted confirmation of qualification, but some time in the future they’ll send me a confirmation notification that they’ve processed my confirmation of qualification successfully.

Despite the awkward wording and the somewhat retro site design, I give Massachusetts big points for integrating Google Maps.  After entering my badge number to get to the inner website I found a link to get directions to the courthouse.  I expected at best a map with a star where the courthouse is, but found instead point-to-point directions from my apartment.  This is a government website.  They know where I live.

Never a Free Lunch

I believe two things.  First, we are entitled to a high degree of customer service every time we interact with a business.  Second, most complaints about poor service are born of unreasonably high expectations, ignorance, poor logic, or some combination of the three.

When I worked at the Residence Inn I faced a number of severely irate guests who we’d had to “walk” – that is, offer them a free night’s stay at another hotel because we’d overbooked.  They were furious that we couldn’t honor their reservation, even though without asking we were paying for their stay elsewhere.  Why not take the free room in peace?

I tried booking a ticket on LimoLiner for my return trip from New York last week.  It’s a luxury bus service I’ve never tried before featuring on-board Internet, meals, entertainment, and other amenities.  Unfortunately they called and e-mailed eight hours before the trip to announce the bus had broken down and they’d be refunding my ticket.  I could find alternate transportation, or I could get a free ride from them on a “replacement vehicle.”

I opted for the free ride, rather than take time out of my stay to call Amtrak.  Admittedly I regret that decision, and would have been much happier on the train, even if it took time to arrange.  The woman sitting behind me, however, talked on the phone as though she’d been tied to the roof and dragged home in the pouring rain.  She’ll never ride LimoLiner again.  Me, I’ll give them another try – I’ll just be sure to make alternate arrangements if they cancel another trip on me, which they made it easy to do by notifying me well in advance and automatically refunding my ticket.

There are legitimate customer concerns.  Vincent Ferrari’s infamous AOL cancellation recording two years ago got huge attention online (with a splash of NBC fame) by showing how hard it can be to achieve even a simple account cancellation.  The infamous Verizon Math call illustrates the need for billing agents to know basic arithmetic.  Anybody you ask will have a story about how hard it was to understand the thick accent of a “support specialist” overseas.

Screaming and yelling about routine failures leaves us no ammunition when a genuine problem occurs.  If LimoLiner had canceled my trip outright and left me stranded in New York, unable to find an alternate route home (unlikely as that is), how could I have expressed the severity of the problem or my displeasure when screaming over the phone would have instantly lumped me together with the whiners out to score a free lunch?

Computer, Write a Blog Post For Me

I just watched WALL-E: a movie whose plot includes a future where humans are so lazy we require robots to do our every chore, right down to letting us converse with the people immediately beside us without moving our eyes.

Afterward, I went into the bathroom to wash the artificial butter from my hands by holding them under the motion sensitive faucet and then the motion sensitive dryer.  Then I just stepped on the escalator downstairs to go home.

The irony is not lost on me.

Now, Later, Soon

Sophie: I’m gonna watch Snow White!
Me: Wow, you’re gonna watch Snow White again?
Sophie: Yeah!

She suddenly remembers she just got new studio portraits, and cuts me off from my reply.

Sophie: I got pictures!
Me:  I know, I saw them!  Do you know that I’m gonna come see you later on your birthday?

A thud is heard as the phone falls to the ground.  Uh oh.

Sophie (yelling in the background):  BEN’S COMING!

Uh oh.  I hear rapid footsteps as she runs to the window to look for me.  Uh oh, uh oh. I just accidentally lied by saying I was coming and then not showing up right away.  Blërg!

Lesson Learned:  Do not tell Sophie something will happen “later” unless it is imminent.

Plane Too Close to Ground, Crash Probe Told

This may be one of the most confusing headlines ever written:

Life bans reduced for shoplifting boxers

Go ahead, read it through a few times until you think you’ve got it.  Now, which meaning did you choose?

  1. After shoplifting some boxer shorts, two or more people have been banned from being alive
  2. After shoplifting some boxer shorts, two or more people had been banned from shopping for the rest of their lives, but now that ban is reduced to a shorter period of time
  3. Two or more people who fight in a boxing ring (boxers) have shoplifted something, and consequently were banned from boxing for the rest of their lives, but now that ban has been reduced to a shorter period of time

If you guessed #3, you’re right!

I understand the need for economy of language in newspaper headlines, but once in a while you just have to throw a verb or two in there.

I Are Smart, It Say!

From my MySQL configuration:

database                          (No default value)
delimiter                         ;
i-am-a-dummy                      FALSE

It’s that last one that seems a little odd.

(It’s really just an alias for safe-updates, which won’t allow you to write a statement like DELETE FROM my_table; that omits the WHERE clause.  I just enjoy that MySQL informs me I’m not a dummy.)