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Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Animaniacs Retrospective

I stumbled across this set of interviews with the folks behind the Animaniacs a few days ago. I'm glad I took time to eventually listen to them all (over lunch here and there). The Animaniacs were an important part of my college career and are still routinely quoted in my day to day life. OkayIloveyoubyebye!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Groupon

This morning I was listening to a story on the Gap Groupon on my commute. Then I check my email and today's Groupon is for mini-golf at Golfland. This is a great one! We've had good luck with Groupons so far, with my favorite one being for Tomatina. We eat there anyway, so saving $15 on dinner was a no-brainer.

So, anyone wanna go play mini-golf? (Also, they have good air hockey tables at Golfland too!)

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dude, seriously?

The mosque at WTC controversy just makes me sad for my country. We're founded on freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Yes, that means all religions, not just the one you agree with.

Roger Ebert does a truly eloquent job summing up what we should all know about the new community center. For a guy whose career was best known for thumbs up or down appraisals, he sure can tell it like it is.

Ready to Go

Were I superstitious, I would suspect the world was trying to stop me from going on my trip by breaking me. However, I am not, and I'm ready to go!

So last week was an adventure in red, itchy spots. An old-school doc prescribing some steroids and two days later I'm right back to invincible, and feeling better than ever.

Then last night I'm scurrying back and forth through the house, hurdling the baby gate that keeps Leeloo safe from Pepper and suddenly I find myself sprawled on the floor in the hallway. The gate was leaned up rather than latched in, so when I brushed it, it came with me rather than staying put.

My left knee is really bruised. The right knee is mildly bruised and the right palm is bruised. This morning's system self-assessment says I might not want to lift much with my right arm if I can avoid it for a few days. Erik now gets to lift the carry-on into the overhead bin. My mid-back says I might try to find time for massage before heading out.

BUT! All of my laundry is done and all that's left to do is to sort my toiletries into a 1 liter bag. Nothing left to do but get on a boat!

Friday, August 20, 2010

"Because, seriously, that chicken dance is not in the Bible"

Let me say once again that I never do well when bludgeoned with words like tradition, but I have to say, I'm a bit glad Erik has been married before, because as I toss wedding tradition after wedding tradition out the window with scowls of, "Why would I ever do that?" he's been pretty darned amiable about the whole thing. He argued briefly over my pronouncement of wedding pie rather than wedding cake, but ultimately gave in to Joreth's blueberry pie.
It's REALLY good pie!
No really, it's really good pie. (Plus, then Effie offered to make us a cake, so there will be a little cake too!)

Anyway, there came a point where we were talking about engagements and engagement rings and what sorts of things I liked and I paused and questioned the whole nature of the thing. A quick internet search turned up a rather sordid history of the engagement ring industry, with DeBeers featuring prominently in their meteoric rise in popularity in the 20th century. It's that moment where things go from "marketing" to "tradition" that just make my skin crawl.

But the "tradition" thing is hardly limited to engagement rings. In fact, the whole concept of the "sanctity of marriage" is a total lie, invented in the past few years. Previously, marriages weren't done in the church. They were done on the church steps. Marriage was a poor compromise for those who couldn't commit to celibacy for the church.

So no, I'm not wearing a white dress (popularized by Queen Victoria, who was defying convention at the time). No, there is no tossing of bouquets or garters. Erin is making me pretty pretty flowers that I expect to send home with my grandparents, undoubtedly married longer than anyone else in the room (clocking in at 66 years of marriage!). There will be no chicken dance. (We only do that at Fezziwig's when Bob convinces Bangers and Mash to be evil.) There will be no cake smooshing. There will be no rice thrown nor coin in my shoe. Bullocks to all of it.

There will be sharing my love of dance with my friends and family. There will be food we particularly enjoy and would like to share. And there will be friends and family surrounding us and a really big party.

When The Irony Gets in Your Eyes, It Burns

With same-sex marriage back on hold in California, it's a good time for a reminder about what the Bible tells us about how marriage should work. Luckily, America's Best Christian has a nice summary for us.

And that's not even covering how you should treat your daughters when harboring fugitives who might be angels. Isn't the Bible just awesome?

Remember folks, same-sex marriage + $19,000 as the average wedding cost = a nice boost to our economy. And you can still hate the homos if you really need to, while still taking their money.

In other news of California irony, rural counties being represented by Republicans screaming "No more taxes!" are the ones spending the most on services. These services are paid for by wealthier counties like Marin who are represented by Democrats fighting for the tax revenue that pays for services in those rural counties. To the whiny rednecks complaining about the damned hippie-liberals stealing their money, please get your facts straight. That hippie-liberal is supporting your ass, paying for your roads, your schools, and your health care.

In other news of national irony, the Museum of Tolerance is against the mosque and Islamic community near former WTC/Ground Zero. My favorite comment on this to date comes from Peter Grosz on Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!:
But in other news, an exhibit about the Museum of Tolerance just opened up at the Museum of Irony.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Glass Half Full

Some days I get reminded that working at Stanford is a privilege. Today I taught a Cisco VoIP phone class. It went perfectly well after some initial change-of-room/no projector/no training phone setup request drama. Luckily it all came together just in the nick of time. I was once again praised for being a great trainer, so clear, so concise, so polished, such good time management, and so on. Then one of the folks who couldn't come to the training session came in panicked and asked if I was "the phone lady." He was utterly flummoxed by his new phone, so I gave him the quick tour and assured him he could ignore all the extra buttons if he wanted and taught him quickly about soft keys and he promised to come to Monday's training session, but was clearly much relieved and offered me candy from his desk drawer. The training class was in the Cantor Arts Center, so I took the scenic route while exiting the building, touring the Rodin collection and the ancient Attic black figure vases and several other collections. Then I rode my bicycle back across campus in the beautiful 78 degree August afternoon. Yep, life is good here.

Science News!

Super-bugs are fast becoming a huge threat, especially in hospital settings. How do we combat them, even as antibiotics become less effective? How about by painting the wall with bacteria-destroying paint! Best yet, it's a physical mechanism that slices up the bacteria using nanotubes, so it doesn't run the risk of breeding a stronger, better bacteria.

Earlier this year, I pointed to the article about why computers crash, but our brains don't. It has to do with how operational efficiencies are achieved and how if genetic systems crash, then that model gets chucked out of the gene pool rather than fixed, and that "software engineers tend to save money and time by building upon existing routines rather than starting systems from scratch." On the flip side, we are still a byproduct of our evolution and this article says you have your jellyfish, lizard, mouse, and ape ancestors to thank for the very special ice cream cone of your brain function, and that all those layers come together to our sense of love possible. I for one am glad that that's how things came together.

Delivering Happiness

Ray loaned me Tony Hsieh's memoir Delivering Happiness on audiobook. I've been listening to it back and forth from work. It's not the most eloquently written thing ever, but his points about corporate values are pretty valid. I have to say, it makes me want to work for Zappos. The culture they've nurtured there sounds pretty awesome, or at least from his perspective. Rather than focusing on advertising and selling a brand, they have invested money into delivering customer satisfaction by making it easy to contact them and trying to make each interaction as positive as possible. Their call center staff are not judged on length of call, but on quality of service, and are encouraged to go above and beyond. After dealing with Mophie for the past few days on a problem with a refurbished Juice Pack for my iPhone. I'd suspect it wasn't working right, so I ran a test over the weekend to check performance. I called in to talk over my options after determining that no, it wasn't working as advertised. The first interaction with their customer service team was good, and made it seem like this would be an easy exchange. Just fill out this form and we'll arrange an exchange.

Unfortunately, the form went to the tech support department, which promptly sent me a message back implying that I must be wrong. Um, okay, so here's the thing: I do systems testing every day. I know how to run a good test to isolate a problem. When my battery drains faster than when I'm using no extended life battery pack, that's not me using the device incorrectly. That's the device behaving badly. But still, several emails back and forth and me changing my perspective from "I'd like an exchange, preferably before I head off on vacation" to "Nope, don't want this anymore. Just want my money back, thanks," then you have failed as a company. And it all boils down to one guy named Mike in tech support who probably gets a lot of pressure not to accept returns without thoroughly going through the full procedure.

The kicker on the whole situation was when they finally sent me an RMA, but it included this line in the email:
If upon receipt of the product, mophie determines that the problem is not covered by this limited warranty, you will be contacted to determine whether mophie should repair the problem for a charge or whether the product should be returned, for an additional cost, to you as received by mophie.

Okay, so you'll let me ship it back to you, but then after my item is out of my control, you're going to decide what you'd like to do next, and if I don't like you're decision, I can pay you to return my defective product to me at my own expense. Now, after the other emails we'd exchanged, I somehow feel less than fully trustful that you'll keep the customer's experience as the focus of your response. You have lost my trust and my promotion of your product. So, I ejected from the process and am getting a refund instead, and have no intention of buying another Mophie product again, which is the opposite of what you want for your company.

Meanwhile, I'm wearing a new pair of shoes from Zappos today that I ordered with the intent of wearing on vacation. They fit great an I'm keeping them. Also, Zappos upgraded me to free overnight shipping for no particular reason, which was awesome. Also, they sent me a special link to get free overnight shipping for life. The shoes fit great and I expect to buy my wedding shoes from Zappos as well, now fully understanding how easy their process is.

In the end, I'm going to have to agree with Tony. It's better to spend a little extra making each customer very happy, rather than spending a lot of money on marketing yourself while losing in the trenches with the 1:1 interactions. Just look at how all that "Beyond Petroleum" marketing money is working for BP now.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Itchy Girl

Well I'm feeling absurdly human and mortal and subject to all the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to. I started getting some red itchy bumps last week. I didn't worry too much about it. By Saturday morning, my whole torso was covered. Then, then I was worried about it. I did the usual online research and tried the first suggestions. By yesterday, it wasn't getting any better really, so I called Kaiser and went in. We ruled out a bunch of things that it is not - not scabies, not folliculitis, not hives, etc. She said it looked like an allergic reaction to... something. I haven't lately changed laundry detergents nor bathing supplies, so that leaves probably something I ate. Going back over the list, the more likely culprit may be all the yummy fresh tomatoes from the garden. Greaaaaaaaat.

For now, the doc has me on a course of steroids to stop the reaction and get things back on track. Hopefully that will be enough to get me through my vacation without being the reddest, bumpiest girl in a bikini. Sigh. After we get back, I'll probably cut down to an extremely simple diet and add things back in slowly until we figure out what's causing it.

But really - tomatoes? I can't really imagine a diet without tomatoes. Of course, I suppose it will be better than being the itchiest girl in the world. Lord knows, this whole thing has to stop before Dickens, because while at Gaskell last Saturday, I could just wear a nice stretchy dress, that option just isn't going to work in December and wearing a corset over itchy red bumps just won't do.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Waste of Time


I'd be interested to see how many hours are also wasted on MMORPGs. But that said, I'm also looking forward to maybe burning an hour watching tv tonight when I get home. I've been a very very productive girl at work today, and I've earned an hour of idleness.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Science News!

Well it's been just too long since I've had one of these!

First, I do so love Discover's 20 Things column. This one is on water.

Also, money and happiness. Can money buy happiness? It depends on what you buy.

Last night we went to see Mary Roach speak in San Jose. Her latest book, Packing for Mars, looks like a hoot, but I recommend all of her books. Reading her books, it occurs to me that there's a sort of SF Bay Area sensibility that loves science, but doesn't treat it with reverence per se. It's the same sort of feel that I get from the guys at Mythbusters.

Note: If you're thinking to yourself, "Dang, I really wish I'd heard about that!" the good news is that she's doing another Commonwealth Club talk on August 19th!

The week before, we saw Cynthia Kenyon talk about her work on longevity, specifically by altering single genes in roundworms. She's one researcher who I wished I'd heard of in high school because I might have chosen to pursue science as a career. Her talk was fabulous because she'd explain what they'd found, and posit possible relationships to the human genome, but then always say, "Or maybe not. We don't know yet." It was great. There's so much more research to do that comes from her research. It will be fascinating to see how it turns out.

Also, it occurred to me there that if anyone is doing anything like a Howard Families experiment, it would have to be the Chinese. It's possible they're working towards longevity the same way they worked toward Yao Ming.

Monday, August 02, 2010

The Wedding Invitation

Word on the street is that sending wedding invitations by email is Just Not Done. In fact, many sites argue rabidly that it would be an unforgivable offense. Piffle says I.

When I think about it from an environmental perspective, I can't begin to justify getting a ton of stuff individually printed and shipped to me, then putting stamp to envelope and getting each of those shipped all over the country just so that folks can mail me the same paper back again.

Another argument is that folks abandon email addresses over time. Lord knows, I've had my GMail address since the first day GMail existed back in 2004, and the address affiliated with this blog for over 10 years, which is to say through at least five changes of physical address. And even my grandmother in her eighties has an email account she checks pretty regularly. (I'll grant, my grandma is way cooler than average, but seriously, who doesn't have an email address these days? Well, besides the kids just showing up at Stanford who just use Facebook messages and Twitter and think that email is just so passe.) Also, I had email addresses (thanks to GMail!) for all but four people we needed to invite. If I had to scrounge up physical addresses, I think I currently know maybe 10-15%, so that would be arduous at best.

And then there's the convenience. Some sites argue that email is "just too unreliable," but I have to wonder what post office they use because mine loses mail all the time. Sure, maybe only 1% of my mail gets lost, but it's enough to be vexing when things are delayed for weeks or just plain never arrive. Or there's the problem I had with the careless postman who managed to turn my California teaching credential labeled, "Do not fold or spindle" into a crushed ball in the bottom of my mailbox. Meanwhile, with an electronic invitation, I know exactly who has viewed the invitation, and who I should make a follow-up call to to make sure they take a look. Also, I now know that less than a week later because 90% have checked their email. Were these paper invitations, I wouldn't even expect them to have all arrived yet, let alone have a single response. Instead, I sent invitations, and within 15 minutes had 7 responses. Also, it's automatically counting all of the Yes and No responses to give me a final headcount, and notifying me of any bounced addresses so that I can fix and resend instantly.

Then there's the etiquette angle. Apparently, it's offensive to some to receive an electronic invitation. For those folks, if you're mortally offended by my electronic invitation, I apologize, but you really must not know me very well. My entire job is focused on introducing new tools and technology and helping others get comfortable with change. My invitation seamlessly links to my wedding web site which links to all sorts of information for guests traveling from out of town and links to several registries for us. It's accessible from anywhere you've got a net connection, whether that's at home, at work, or on your phone. I'll even be able to manage questions from guests when I'm sitting at a cafe in Italy. Ciao indeed!