Category Archives: Technology

Device Fatigue

I think I’ve posted about this before, but it’s time for a new rant!  I thought technology was supposed to make our lives easier.  Instead, I feel enslaved by it.  But I don’t know what to do about it.  In some ways it does make my life easier.  In some ways, it wouldn’t matter how I felt about it…I have no choice but to use it.  So here are a few of my complaints.

Hey!  There’s a new model out!  I will specifically rant here about Microsoft.  Because Windows 8 just came out.  Oh nooooo.  That means that very soon, Windows 7 will be obsolete.  I am barely used to Windows 7, and hate it.  No telling what fresh hell Windows 8 has in store for us.  All in the name of “helping” us.  Microsoft is the only tech company I know of that forces you to buy its new product by withdrawing “support” for its older models.

Amazon just came out with the new Kindle Fire HD.  At first they said they would no longer sell the original, but apparently they re-thought that strategy.  Not only will they still sell it, but they dropped the price by $40 to $159.  My original Fire is not quite a year old.  (That must be one of the fastest beta tests in tech history).  Allegedly, the HD improves on the original in some ways, but not enough to make me want one.  Or “have” to have one. People with iphones kill me.  Every time a new one comes out, they gotta have it.  But what Amazon did NOT do is threaten to withdraw support from the original.  So ask me whether or not I like Amazon better than Microsoft.

I need to be charged!  Something I have always needs charging.  This is the prime example of my having to serve these things rather than the other way around.  And the devices give you messages.  The Kindle is very polite.  It suddenly vibrates (very startling sensation) and a message pops up that says “15% battery power remaining.  Continue reading?”  My smart phone (NOT an iPhone!) says, “Connect your charger NOW”.  It’s so rude.  If you don’t heed its orders, it will promptly turn itself off.  At least the Kindle gives you some lead time to wrap up whatever you’re doing.

Lessee.  I have a smart phone, a Bluetooth, a digital camera, and a Kindle.  Which is probably fewer than some people.  Although they don’t need to be charged, I have 3 computers at work and one at home.  And the charging indicators vary.  The cell phone has no lights.  You just have to keep peeking at the screen to see whether it’s done or not.  When it is, it says, “Disconnect from charger now to save energy”.  I told you it was rude.  Thank you, cell phone, but I don’t need your help to be environmentally conscious.  The Bluetooth has a light that turns from red to green when charged.  Except that when you first plug it in, the light is green for about 10 seconds first, then it turns red.  Totally confusing.  Are you dead, or not?  The camera has a red light that comes on when you plug it up, then it goes out when it’s charged.  Speaking of confusing.  The Kindle is the most sensible.  It has a red light that comes on when it first charges, and a green light when it’s done.  And no rude messages.  It doesn’t say, I’m through, you dummy.  I think I’m smart enough to grasp the symbolism, from learning to drive.  Red means stop.  Green means go.

Passwords. I am overwhelmed by passwords.  I don’t have one on the cell (though I could) or the Kindle (not sure I could) and the camera and the Bluetooth don’t give you that option.  But of the four computers I use, there is a different password for every one.  Not to mention that every program I use has another password.  If I died and had an autopsy, all they would find in my brain is…passwords. For me, it’s like a game of chicken, to see how long I can remember all these passwords.  So far, so good.  But I’m pushing my luck.  I need one of those password saving programs, except I would have to have a password for it.

People I know are afraid of technology, particularly how it will be in the future.  We will be able to have brain implants connected to our optic nerves.  Glasses like the ones Google is already making. Cars that drive themselves.  Personally, I don’t think it can come soon enough.  Unless you have to use passwords.  Maybe with the brain implants you can just think the password.



The New York Times, And Newspapers In General

I subscribe to the New York Times Premium Puzzles, and it isn’t free, but it isn’t expensive either.  I do their puzzles every day, which you can do for free as long as it’s the same day.  Premium allows you to access previous days’ puzzles, plus access to what they call their Second Sunday puzzle, which includes the Acrostics.  I am addicted to Acrostics!  It also allows you access to Play With A Friend, so you can interactively solve the puzzle with another person or more than one person.  My sister and I do this together every Saturday (Saturday being the hardest puzzle and requiring two brains), so it’s very important to me to be able to access it.  My sister and I use it as our weekly catch-up time.

I remember a friend who used to call his mother every weekend, and he dreaded it.  This is never a dreaded contact, I look forward to it.  If we have nothing to say beyond doing the puzzle together, that’s fine too.  We don’t have to scramble to find a topic if there really isn’t one.   We touched base.  We had fun.  We know we are each okay.  Mission accomplished.

It’s a fixed appointment.  If either of us did not show up without prior notice, we would know something was wrong.

So this week…it would not allow me to type in either the Acrostic or Play With A Friend.  I discovered that Friday night and did everything I could do on my end to try to fix it.  Logged off the NYT and logged back on (about a hundred times).  Restarted the computer (about a hundred times).  Emptied the cache.  Cleared everything I know how to clear.  And it still didn’t work.

So, in desperation, I contacted the NY Times Help.  And…Arrgh. I’ve done this before, and should have remembered.  I got back an automated response suggesting I do all the things I’d already done.  I just wanted to scream.  I am so frustrated!  But what can I do?  Well, I replied, I already did that.  Could a real person look into this?

It does make me a little sad, because I’m well aware of the issues that newpapers are going through.  (Like, death.)  But if I have a problem with my Kindle or with my cell phone, I can get customer service help 24 hours a day from Amazon or Sprint. (Of course they will be from India or Uzbekistan, but…that’s another discussion.)  Sometimes while I’m searching for the answer to my problem, someone will pop up on chat and offer to help.  Or I can choose the chat option to begin with.

Not so with the NYT.  Apparently their people work Monday through Friday and have pre-set automated responses for when they are not there.  This seems like a scheduling problem to me.  You could have shifts that go from Tuesday through Saturday, or Wednesday through Sunday.  That way you would cover every day of the week….even if they were all 8 to 5 shifts.  Inquiries after that time would be answered the next day.  They need a manager.

I am sad about newspapers though.  Every weekday, I read the paper and ink version of my local paper.  I won’t subscribe to the online version, because the fees are more than the fees for the New York Times, which just seems wrong to me.  And the NYT lets you read 10 articles a month for free.  But I don’t see that lasting long.  I like newspapers.  I like real books.  I like libraries, and the smell of old paper.

And yet, as I mentioned, I have a Kindle, a cell phone, a Bluetooth.  I have Windows 7 and more than one email address (some of which I have to remember to check.)  I have a foot in both worlds, so to speak.  I know people who are steadfast in refusing to give up the “old ways”.  For instance.  I’m on the Board of an organization and there are various ways to notify us of meetings.  When that task falls to the former president of the organization, he calls you on the phone.  You will never get me that way.  He has an email address, but he doesn’t like it and doesn’t trust it.  Sad.   If you don’t change with the times, you will become very isolated.  I don’t know what he’ll do if they ever stop publishing the paper and ink version of the local newspaper.   Which has happened in other cities (Seattle).

However, it can also get out of hand.  I, for example, don’t have and never will have a Twitter account.  I think the whole concept is laughable and useless.  That said, apologies to Twitter fans. I once said a similar thing to a blogger friend and he was highly insulted.  I’ll leave it at, this is a bit too much connectivity for me.  The best thing about technology for me is that it has allowed me to become more disconnected, rather than less.  I need lots of down time.  To read in the back yard.  To contemplate how annoying and yet clever squirrels are.  To get stung by fire ants (or some other unknown critter)and take myself to the ER.  I don’t think sending a Tweet about it would be helpful.

Having said this about newspapers, next month I will be a somewhat reluctant “star” in the local newspaper.  They are participating in a campaign called Go Pink! Which is apparently a national endeavor by newspapers. Each day they are highlighting one local woman who has survived breast cancer.  I have very mixed feelings about the whole pink stuff thing.  But overall, I think this is a good idea.  This is the face of cancer:  someone who is your neighbor or co-worker.  And there were things I wanted to say.  When the article comes out, I will let you know, and provide a link to the online video of the interview (which I will probably have to pay for, Ha!)  The reporter did the video using an iPhone!  I am still amazed!

I love newspapers and I am prematurely mourning their deaths.  But I also love new ways to communicate too.  Like iPhones.

An Ode To

When I wrote the post “You Should Read This Book”, about where I get book suggestions, I can’t believe I left out Amazon.  This probably hurts their feelings, since they go to the trouble of sending me an email Every. Single. Day.  You too can have this pleasure by ordering anything, ever, from them.  After that, all you have to do is LOOK at an item and you will occasionally receive an email that says, “People who liked this item also liked…”  For instance, I once looked at toaster ovens on Amazon, so I will occasionally get an email about other kitchen appliances I might like.

The thing is, if it were any company other than Amazon, that daily email would have become annoying very quickly, and I would long ago have unsubscribed.  But I actually like these emails.  I’ve gotten some great ideas from them.  I find their suggestions are often eerily right.  What’s funny is that when I get one that says, “You might like….”, some of the suggestions are in fact books I’ve already read.

Once a month they send out an email that tells you 100 books you can get for $3.99 or less (for Kindle).  I’m not often interested in these books, but this month’s included two I intend to buy.  One of the reasons I was so intrigued is that one of the books listed is Timothy Egan’s “The Worst Hard Time”.  That book is a history of the Dust Bowl and is in my top three of the best non-fiction books I ever read.  (The other two are “In The Heart of the Sea” and “The Tiger”.)  “In the Heart of the Sea” (Nathaniel Philbrick) is the true story of the sinking of the whaleship Essex in the Pacific Ocean–by a whale.  It’s also a fascinating history of whaling in the U.S., out of Nantucket, once arguably the premier whaling location in the world.  I found that book by one of my typical methods–cruising the library.  “The Tiger” (John Vaillant) is the story of a particular man-eating tiger in the Primorye region of Russia.  I learned of that book from a friend (one of my other preferred methods), actually a close friend of my sister’s.

The first of the books I intend to buy is “Already Gone” ($1.99) by John Rector, from the “mystery and thriller” category.  The second is “John Dies At The End” ($3.99) by David Wong, because, after all, how can you resist that title?

Meanwhile, I have waiting for me “The Story of Beautiful Girl” (on Kindle), which my sister gave me as a gift.  Since she rarely makes recommendations, the fact that she gave this one to me makes me think it must be a fantastic book.  I also have three library books waiting, which I have now renewed for the third and final time.  The chances of my getting around to them in time are somewhere between slim and none.

Speaking of Amazon and Kindle, a few words about the Kindle Fire.  I’ve had one since they first came out in December 2011, again, a gift from my sister.  And I love it for a multitude of reasons.  Last week, Amazon announced that the Fire is officially sold out.  What?  How could that happen?  I should have been smarter–the only way Amazon would let that happen is if they intend to come out with a new model.  In fact, this week it seems they are making an announcement which is expected to be the intro to what people are calling (in the absence of any real info) the Kindle Fire 2.  (A very funny comment I saw was, so what will they call this one?  The Blaze?)  They are also expected to intro an update to Kindle Touch which will make it more competitive with the Nook.

Here are a couple of things I hope they will improve:  first, the sound.  Sound on the Kindle Fire sucks, as in, you can’t hear it.  I bought a cheapo (abour $15) external speaker, which helps, but the speaker is too cheap to be as much help as the Fire needs.   Mostly I buy books, so that doesn’t seem important, but I’ve also bought music.  I likely will not buy more unless I get a better external speaker, and forget movies.  Who wants to watch movies on a 7″ screen anyway?  Maybe on an airplane, or some other really confined space.

Second, I hope they add 3G or 4G.  Unlike some other Kindle models, the Fire only has Wifi.  Which is annoying and inconvenient for me personally.  Which poses a problem for the aforementioned airplane scenario.  Unless you specifically make an effort to download it to your device, your music and movies are stored in the Amazon Cloud–which you have to have Wifi to access.  And music and movies eat up memory very quickly.  The good news is that you can download from the Cloud to your device, and then send it back to the Cloud when you’re done.

These are my two complaints.  It’s also true that you can access the Internet, but not well.  That might be more important to other people.  I don’t really want or need to access the Internet via Kindle. But I suppose if they really want to compete with the iPad, that would also be a necessary improvement.

I love books, and Kindle, and Amazon, although they are all imperfect.  But I think that’s the very definition of love.

Green Trash…and Management School

I have previously posted about trash, when the City passed an ordinance that you had to bring your rolling trash containers from the street back to wherever you keep them. within 24 hours of trash pickup.  And you can’t take them to the street until the evening before pickup day.

Fortunately for me, that regulation only applies within the city limits, and I live a happy half-mile outside those limits, in the County.  I tend to think that we are a lot more laissez-faire in the County.  Plus, I live in the kind of neighborhood where no one gives a rat’s ass about where your trash container is.  If you want the front of your house to be advertised by trash, so be it.

So at work, I wanted something to be shredded.  My operation was recently audited by the City, so I’m very sensitized to the need for paper trails.  I wanted shredding, because they will give you an official “Certificate of Destruction”.  I don’t care whether they actually shred it or not.  I still have proof that I did my part.  (Read:  paper trail.)

I’ve used shredding companies before in a different city, and we took all the material to them.  Since that time, mobile shredding companies have appeared.  I see their trucks on the street all the time.  Not terribly surprising when you live in a city full of lawyers.

So I assigned my assistant manager the task of researching mobile shredding companies.  She LOVES this kind of detail.  It was like, Woohoo!  You actually WANT me to Google?  Is this a great job, or what?

There are levels of delegation.  For instance, we needed some landscaping work done at one point, and I said, find a company and just hire them.  Do what you think is best.  In this case I said, find a company you like, pick one, but discuss it with me first.  Primarily because I didn’t know anything about mobile shredding companies and wanted to be educated.  But secondly, there are some times when you have to keep a closer eye on relatively new managers.

She–like my last assistant manager–is so focused on saving money (not that that’s a bad thing)–that she will pinch a penny in the beginning, get shoddy work in return, and then have to spend even more money on someone new to correct it.

But she picked a company and made a recommendation to me.  This is a huge improvement!  I have finally taught her–don’t give me three choices and expect me to make every decision.  I can’t do it, don’t have time for it, etc. The “manager” part of your title means you have to make some decisions, and you have to quit being scared about it.

We went with the company she picked.  The cost was $45 if you take the stuff to them, $55 if they send the mobile truck.  A quick calculation told me that my time and her time was worth more than $10.  I said, send the truck.  And they came the same day!  I made her go with the driver to see the operation.  (Okay, I do care a little about whether they actually shred it or not.)

She was so excited that she took pictures of it on her iPhone.  They have this huge truck that is kind of like a regular trash truck, which lifts the container and dumps it into a bin.  But there is a shredder inside, so you can actually hear it working.

So this was the best of all possible worlds. The job got done.  I got my Certificate of Destruction.   She learned something, and had a lot of fun doing it.  Is this a great job or what?

Reading and Technology (This Means You, Kindle)

Now you can hardly find a stauncher fan of Kindle (pause:  I had to look up “stauncher”.  It’s what I really meant, but was it really a word?  Fortunately, yes, since I would have to flounder quite a bit to find some word or combination of words that would express what I meant.)  We now resume our regularly scheduled programming.

Here’s the problem.  For your best Kindling experience, you need Wifi.  Preferably very fast Wifi which does not blip on and off.  At home, I don’t even have the blipping kind.  No Wifi, of any description.  So.  It is possible to get a book onto your Kindle by connecting it to your computer via a USB cable, not included with a Kindle Fire, but only $9.99 brand new, plus shipping, unless you’re an Amazon Prime customer, in which case for only about $65 per year they will waive that $3.99 shipping fee.  Are you getting my drift?

But I have the USB cable.  It’s just that I forgot how to use it.  You’d think it would be simple.  Amazon recognizes that your Kindle is connected to your PC and sends your book there.  I realize that that’s actually a dream I’m having, because even I know that isn’t really possible.  (But it should be.)  And I need simple.  I want to push a button, go Ding!, and poof!  There it is.

Here’s my favorite thing:  You look up a book, any book, on Amazon, and it says “Start reading Mary Had A Little Lamb in under a minute on your Kindle!”  Well, don’t hold your breath.  It IS possible, and sometimes happens, but only with Wifi.  Otherwise, you will have raised several children and retired from your day job before ever finding out what color the lamb’s fleece is.

I’m quite serious.  It takes about six steps to get the book onto your Kindle, if not more.

While I was waiting, I decided to check to see if the book I bought today had made it to my Kindle for PC (Free!  As in, totally free, from Amazon.  Which I think is very smart of Amazon.)  And so, What Kindle for PC was I thinking of?  It would not open.  I still had an icon, but the actual program had somehow disappeared itself.

Back to Amazon.  I re-downloaded Kindle for PC.  By the time I went back and forth like 50 times to Amazon, I could have climbed to the top of the Statue of Liberty.  Well, figuratively speaking.

By the time I was done with that, the book appeared in Kindle for PC.  And then I had to start on the six steps to get it onto the Kindle.

The whole point was that I was hell-bent (pause:  Is that a word?  And if it is, does it have to have an apostrophe?) on getting this book my sister recommended TODAY!  Not later, when I have access to Wifi.

The book is Rabid:  A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus.  Only now I’m too exhausted to read it.  But tomorrow is another day.


It’s rather easy to see how people could be that way.  Originally, it was a very painful time, the very cusp of history so to speak, when industrialization was a life or death matter.  I can’t help but have some admiration for those feeble attempts to fight it, but it was always a losing battle.

And there are many parallels to today.  It isn’t industrialization, it’s globalization, and that has been painful too.  But without any evil biases involved, the history of all species on earth is Adapt or Die, and always has been.  Whether it’s a machine (like a mechanized loom) or a computer, you have to learn to understand it and work with it, or it will defeat you.

On a smaller, not yet life-or-death scale (notice I say, not yet), it’s similar.  I know people who don’t have smartphones, Kindles or IPads, Bluetooths, and in some cases, not even computers.  Think about that.  And if you don’t have a TV (I know some of them too, or at least I’ve read about them), how do you get news?  Word of mouth?  The newspaper?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the main reason people don’t have any of these devices is not because they think we’ve lost contact with nature.  It’s because they’re scared of them.  They’re afraid they won’t understand how they work, and will be too embarassed to ask.  Pride is truly a Deadly Sin.

Just as one example, I’ve been having a problem with my smartphone, and emailed Sprint.  About the time I was ready to hit send, it said don’t email us if one of your problems is an inability to connect to the Internet.  Which was my exact problem.  What the hell.  I sent it anyway.  And to my complete astonishment, they replied in less than 24 hours and I fixed it.

So.  When I have a problem like this, I think, I thought technology was supposed to make my life easier.  Instead, I feel like I’m spending a lot of time in the care and feeding of my devices.  And don’t get me started on chargers.  I am forever charging something, or having to remember to charge something.

But when they are charged and happy and not malfunctioning (ha!), they actually do make my life easier and they enrich it.  If I want a book I can’t find at the library, I can have it in one minute on the Kindle.  Usually.

As frustrating as it can get, I am not going back to pencils and legal pads.  And I have a funny story about pencils and legal pads I’ll tell later.

Where Is The Charger For This Thing?

One of my favorite books ever is Enslaved by Ducks.  If I wrote a book, I would call it Chained to Chargers.  I am forever charging one thing or another, or looking for the charger, or the USB cable that connects it to the computer.  Or the User Manual–not that that would help.  User manuals are written by people who already understand very well how a thing works, and have forgotten the first 57 steps they took to get there.  Those are the steps you need to know.

Or I can’t figure out how to do something and have to chat online with someone from India about it.  These are the people who Value My Business, Strive For Excellence in customer service, and are Very Sorry that I have a problem.  All cynicism aside, online chat is my preferred method.  I hate talking on the phone to them, and since the user manuals are no help, what’s the alternative?  Plus, I have a certain sympathy for the position they’re in.  This is partly due to knowing people in the call center business, and partly due to seeing the movie Slumdog Millionaire.  But it’s mostly due to being in a customer service business myself.  It always amazes me how people unload on the powerless.  Had a bad day?  I’ve seen people scream at a cashier for five minutes because the prices were too high, then say, I know it isn’t your fault.  Oh that makes it all better now.

But I digress.  Recently I had the occasion to make three new best friends from, and on Thursday, I got to know my new best friend Jayjay at  The occasion was that I have lost the USB cable to my Sony digital camera and wanted to order a new one.  Good luck finding that on your own on the Sony website.  Lucky for me, Jayjay popped up and offered to help.

But this is not the perfect marriage between me and all my new best friends.  Jayjay told me I would receive an order confirmation within 24 hours.  Did I?  Nope.  Kind of like my last new best friend Joan, who said she would waive shipping charges for the USB cable (!) I bought for the Kindle, and then charged my credit card anyway.  So every problem seems to require at least two contacts.  One to get it fixed, and one to follow up on whether or not it really is fixed.

So, armed with the order number Jayjay gave me, I went on to see if I could track my order.  Very, very funny, Fakename.  Do you also see dead people?

So I called them.  On the phone, even.  When I gave my order number, my helper said, Oh.  That’s a Sony Store order number from the Parts and Accessories department.  (Duh.)  Unfortunately, you need to talk to them about it and they are closed this weekend.

Is that classic or what?  It’s not my department.  Anyhow, I started laughing.  Helper Woman said, The thing is, they are usually open all weekend (I’ll bet they are.  Miss an opportunity to sell stuff?  I don’t think so.)  But they are doing a major software upgrade.  I laughed harder.  Really! she said (somewhat offended), it’s a really big deal.   I tried to calm down a bit.  I know, I said, I’m laughing because this is just my luck–I’m trying to check an order on the only weekend the Sony Store has shut down.

So she gave me the direct number to that department and said I should call on Monday.  On second thought, she said, it might be better to call on Tuesday.  That did it.  I was laughing helplessly by that time, because…I know how that goes, and I know she’s right.

I thought these devices were supposed to make my life easier and more rewarding.  Instead, the care and feeding of them is like trying to raise a child or an orchid.  Fakesister, always cutting brilliantly to the heart of a matter, says this:  some devices are truly labor-saving.  Like dishwashers and vacuum cleaners.  But yours are not.  Oh.  My.  Is that ever true.

But some days, you just wish that the Kindle, the smart phone, and the digital camera would just go to their rooms and play quietly.

My New Best Friend Joan…from

Right.  Hi Joan, Goodbye Joan.  It’s not like you can ask for a particular person again…But for this particular instant in the space/time continuum, I like Joan.

Needless to say, I had a technology woe again, namely, the Kindle Fire died yesterday afternoon.  I mean really died.  It just sort of froze in the middle of things.  So I decided I would be smart and turn it off, and turn it back on.  Except it wouldn’t come back on.  Then I plugged it into the charger…and the LED light wouldn’t even come on.  (It’s red when it’s charging, green when it’s charged, and nothing when it’s dead.)

I was at work.  I tried plugging it into a different outlet.  No response.  So my employee Kitty said, “See, that’s the advantage of a real book.  You don’t have to charge them.”  I raised my eyes to the heavens.  Lord, I prayed, When will you change the U.S. employment laws so that I can legally smite her?  Just kidding, of course, especially because she was right.

So when I got home, I plugged up the Kindle and at least I got a light…a green one even, which would stay on for about 10 seconds and go out again.  After 8 hours of charging…same thing.  Visions of nightmares, rather than sugarplums, were dancing in my head.  I would have to send it back.  It’s amazing how attached you can become to an inanimate object.  So I decided this morning that I would take the plunge and chat with whoever I got on chat.  Ergo, Joan.

Joan said, do you have a USB cable?  Well, yes I do.  I bought one.  They don’t give you one, because it takes a geologic era to charge your Kindle Fire with a USB cable.  All the other Kindle versions come with a USB cable.  But it turns out you can download stuff onto the Kindle Fire with the USB in the absence of WiFi, which is why I got it.  So Joan says, plug it up to the USB and just see if the LED comes on.  Yes.  I said, are you suggesting the charger is bad?

Then she says, I’m not sure yet.  Do you have a cell phone charger that will fit the Kindle?  What? What about all those warnings that say that absolutely under no circumstances are you supposed to try to charge your device with an unapproved charger, otherwise you will void your warranty, the Kindle will blow up, and all your children will be born deformed?  She was like, you have my permission.

And guess what.  That worked too.  Another icon shattered–so it really DOESN’T matter what charger you use?  As long as it fits?  Boy, do I feel stupid.

So the end result is, they are sending me another charger, free.  When it quits working, next time I know what to do without calling on Amazon.  Or, well, I will still have to call them so I can get it free.

But I still like Joan.  She took me through the steps to figure out if it was the charger or the Kindle itself (its battery, actually, or so I figured.)

I generally hate it when I have to talk to Customer Service for any big company…mostly Sprint or Comcast.  I have a Sprint cellphone, and I used to tell my employees they might want to go home for the day because I was about to have to call Sprint.  They would be like, Oh Nooooo.  But Sprint has completely changed direction.  It’s no longer an ordeal to call them.  And Amazon has never been that way, so they didn’t have anything to overcome.

There is an internal culture in every company I know of which values everything but customer service.  The smart people are the ones who get the business–the engineers, the software designers, the marketers, etc.  But the customer service people are the people who keep the business for you.  In the long run, failing to value that will kill you.  So…thanks, Joan.

Speaking of Technology…LED Lighting

So I manage this parking garage with metal halide lighting, and another with sodium vapor lighting.  Metal halide used to be the best you could get.  More similar to daylight.  But it has its drawbacks.  Like sucking energy.  I’ve been “lobbying” for about 7 years I think to make a change.  Finally I annoyed people enough that the owners allowed a company to come in and, for free, put in four LED bulbs as a demonstration.

That in itself is a huge advance.  You can now take an LED bulb and screw it into the same fixture you’re already using, whereas prior to the past year, you would have had to replace all the fixtures.  About five times more expensive.

So the company put in these four bulbs.  And they are not as bright, without question.  However, the real question is whether or not they are sufficiently bright.  If they are, and they reduce your electricity bill by 80%, I think I can live with it.

But what is the first thing that happens?  One of my employees comes to work and says, “Why is it so dark in here?”  I totally had to suppress my urge to laugh out loud.  I said, “It isn’t dark, it just isn’t the same kind of light you’re used to.”  She’s used to this blazing inferno of a halide light shining into the window of her work area.  My assistant manager was even more succinct.  “Get a desk lamp”, she said.

The same employee switched roles later in the day and went to another area of the office where she proclaimed, “It’s dark over here too!”  “This is just wrong!  I could barely see over here to begin with!  Now I will have to wear my reading glasses all day!  I used to be able to only put them on when I needed them!”  I just didn’t comment.  I am actually pretty good, I think, at being sensitive to employees’ working conditions.  But in this case, silence was the better part of valor.  Because if I had spoken at all, it would have been something sarcastic, like, that sounds like a personal problem.  Maybe you need glasses more than you would like.  Maybe you should get over yourself, since last time I checked, the world does not revolve around your needs.  Now you see why I didn’t say anything.  That said, I don’t blame her for expressing her discomfort. It isn’t her job to look at the big picture or take the long view.  That’s my job.  Sigh.  It’s lonely at the top.  Or close to the top. Three or four steps below the top.  Or maybe five.

One of the other interesting things that happened was that my client (the person I report to), sort of the owner’s rep if you will, came to observe and had a conversation with the lighting guy, and he just kept throwing up obstacles as to why we couldn’t do this.  Finally he said, without using that exact word, I’m afraid.  I’m afraid that five years from now some new technology will come out and someone will ask me why I didn’t wait for it.  If I were him, I’d be more worried about being asked why I didn’t take the opportunity to save 80% on my utility bill for the last five years, even if it wasn’t the perfect futuristic solution.

In the end, though, what probably fascinates me most is our perceptions, including our perception of light. One of the reasons the LED lights don’t appear as bright is that we’ve become accustomed to that blazing inferno produced by halide lights.  The LED’s are more focused.  They have no “backsplash” in which light is thrown onto the ceiling as well as the floor. Of course LED’s also produce almost no heat, a very good thing as far as my lightbulb-changing guy is concerned.  He has another piece of the small picture.


For almost two months now, I’ve been the proud owner of a Bluetooth myself.  I only wear it for a couple of hours on Saturday morning, while doing the NYT crossword puzzle with Fakesister, and…Woot!  Both my hands are free!  The NYT crossword  site has a chat feature, but neither Fakesister nor I lke it.  We want voices.  You know, that’s called “talking”.  I also wanted a Bluetooth because I thought it would be useful for long trips in the car. 

I think it is the greatest advance in technology since the wheel.  Today, I learned it was invented by Ericsson in 1994.   Who?  Who ever even remembers Ericsson?  They used to make phones, I think.  For more info, check out Bluetooth,  And good luck getting past Gaussian frequency-shift keying. 

While the technology may have been invented in 1994, it took quite a while to catch on and be mass-marketed.  All I know is that sometime in the last 10 years, Bluetooths started blooming in the ears of my cashiers like so many weeds.  And I said, You can’t wear that at work. 

Their reaction was to look at me as if I and the horse I rode in on needed to get over ourselves.  Drag ourselves, kicking and screaming if need be, into the 21st century. So they did what  any normal, independent, adult American human being would do.  They ignored me.  Unless they thought I was going to catch them. 

But here is the thing about Bluetooths.  When I first put mine on, it feels awkward.  But very quickly, I can’t feel it any more.  So they make the mistake of forgetting they’re wearing one.  So they always, always get caught sooner or later. 

So after saying, “Don’t do it” I went to the route of logic.  See, I said, it doesn’t look right.  It appears to the customer as if you are just waiting for something more important to happen.  It has nothing to do with reality, it has to do with appearances and perception.    And they look at me like my dogs do:  We recognize that you are speaking, but what language is that?  Apparently you want us to do something, but we’re going to need a translator. 

I am not a fan of the “do it because I said so” school of management (or parenting).  But now, that’s just where I am.  My new tactic is Just Do What I Said.  If you don’t unhderstand it, then…I don’t know what to tell you.  Google it or something.  Figure it out on your own.