John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Game on, Hawking!!

jyb_musings

Smarty pants astrophysicist Stephen Hawking has joined Facebook and said in his first post “I have always wondered what makes the universe exist. Time and space may forever be a mystery, but that has not stopped my pursuit.”

Oh brother. Whatever.

Well, you know Mr Hawking, you may be the smartest man alive but a lot of us on Facebook have some pretty brilliant moments ourselves. I am upping my scientific and intellectual Facebook game. Be forewarned. And remember, it’s OK to hate the player but don’t hate the game? Feel me? You are no longer in the ivory tower on Facebook. You are now on the street. And it’s about to get real.

So, for starters, you aren’t the only one on Facebook who wonders about what makes the universe exist and about space and time and stuff like that. I think about them too. Not all at the same time. But I think about them sometimes. And think about many other complicated sciencey things too.

When I am on an airplane I like to look out the window at the clouds and think to myself, “Let’s see. There are three kinds of clouds. Stratus, cumulus, and one other.” See? You are probably already realizing we are a lot more alike than you originally thought. That’s OK. That will happen to you a lot on here. Keep an open mind on Facebook. Ok? That’s important for everybody — but especially for guys like us.

10580031_10154805192810515_2724657550179636568_nOh…and after I think about the different types of clouds, I’m not done. I keep going. I saw this one recently (see below) I keep staring at the cloud formations until it comes to me, using my vast imagination (again like you) and I figure out what the cloud shape reminds me of. This one reminds me of a puppy dog.

I am interested, Mr Hawking, to find out if your mind works this way too and if you agree the cloud looks a lot like a little puppy dog? Cutie, huh?!

Anyway, congrats for joining Facebook. This may be the most exciting and surprising intellectual journey of your life. And I suspect — if you give it a chance–you will finally get some answers to all your questions about the universe.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Evolution of Customer Service

jyb_musingsThe evolution of customer service in American business.

1960’s “Take a ticket, take a seat”

1970-1999 “The customer is always right.”

2000 – “Take a virtual ticket, take a virtual seat

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: iPhone 6 FAIL

jyb_musingsMy iPhone 6 doesn’t work!! I am so disappointed.

No, no. I don’t mean that it doesn’t work in the “doesn’t function properly” sense. Or that it is bendable or has some sort of software bug.

I mean the iPhone 6 doesn’t work in the larger sense that it failed to make my life feel utterly happy and complete –and to make me more organized, hip and successful than I was without an iPhone 6.

I tested my theory by not telling several people close to me that I now own a iPhone 6 to see if they would comment about the “new me.”

For example, I expected to start getting invited to certain chic parties I hadn’t been invited to before –or having these friends struggle to identify what exactly was different about me now (since they didn’t know about the new phone). Perhaps they would ask me questions like, “Did you get a new haircut recently?” Or “Did you lose even more weight?” Or “Did you just do or buy something that has made you irresistibly fabulous over night?”

Well, none of that happened. In fact, one friend even told me I was irritating because I kept talking about smart phone upgrades hoping he would ask me if I had upgraded recently.

I am thinking of returning my iPhone 6 for being outright defective for not delivering to me that elusive “x factor” or “Je ne sais quois” the iPhone 6 ads seemed to be promising.

On the other hand, maybe I simply got the wrong color and need to exchange my white iPhone 6 for the gold of black models. That has to be what the real problem is.

Right?

Otherwise it would mean something is wrong with me. Or that I am going to have to wait for the iPhone 7 to be released.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: AT&T Customer Service Line and Making New Friends.

jyb_musingsI like making new friends as much or more than anyone I know.

But not on AT&T’s customer service line where I am hoping to get a quick resolution to a small and annoying phone issue.

Questions like “How is your day going so far?” and “How is everything else?” and “Are you enjoying your day so far today?” just don’t seem …spontaneous and, well…, genuine.

In fact, when I get disconnected and call back and talk to a completely different person, that new person, as fate would have it, asks me the exact same friendly questions about my day and me and the general state of my well-being. I am appreciative of these solicitous inquiries and I am always friendly in return —but I do try subtly to steer our conversation back around to the primary reason for my call which is mostly to get my phone working again.

I don’t mean to sound crotchety and think it is wonderful to be polite and friendly– especially with a stranger on a routine customer service call. But if you have to make regular calls to customer service, hearing the canned buddy chatter over and over can make you question how genuine the AT&T rep really is. Especially if you are trying to cancel a line you cancelled last month but continue to get charged for. And the rep tries to help out her new friend (you) by saying on three different occasions, “I noticed you are taking advantage of the Friends and Family Plan and I can’t recommend you cancel a line and I want to tell you about better options you are missing out on.”

Having a new friend is always a little awkward at first. You are just getting to know one another and when you have asked politely not to be sold a new line but just please cancel and stop charging for the line you cancelled last month, you tend to think a friend would understand. But I have found that my new AT&T friends don’t really “get” me when it comes to asking for their help. They tend to be what I would call “controlling.” They act like they know what is best for me better than I do myself.

And that does get annoying. Even between friends. Especially if my same new friend wants me to stay on the line at the end of our little chit chat to answer a bunch of questions about what a great job they did helping me (even if they really didn’t). Of course, I don’t ever say anything ugly in one of these question and answer segments about my new friend, but I can’t help thinking they are being a little self-absorbed —and needy. For a friend anyway.

Let’s just say I am sure glad that my non-AT&T friends don’t end our phone call conversations this way. And if they ever start, I may eventually begin giving them bad reviews for making everything “all about them” instead of just being a friend. Or acting like a good customer service rep.. Because that’s how real friends treat one another.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Being Judgmental, Hypocrisy, and the iPhone 6

1549316_10154662767060515_3327043670837143695_nThis morning as I left a business meeting I spotted a long snaking line outside an ATT store as people waited for a chance to buy the new iPhone 6.

I self-righteously shook my head and muttered sarcastically to a guy snapping a picture of the line, “Wonder if any of those people would wait in line that long to talk to someone on their new iPhone?” We snickered condescendingly like adolescents and he responded, “Pitiful, isn’t it?” After he stepped aside, I snapped this shot myself and got in my car and left –off to do something more important than anticipating the new iPhone.

45 minutes later I was driving by a different ATT store and parked outside the store to do a conference call. After the call I had a few minutes to spare and wandered inside just to see what the new iPhone 6 looks like. The sales rep started pitching me and encourged me to hold the phone, which I did. He smiled at me, “Feels good, doesn’t it? Looks good, too.” I replied, “You are good….but I am just looking and not buying” and I scurried out the door.

Two hours later I had another meeting at the coffee shop by the ATT store in this picture. I got to the coffee shop about 15 minutes early and decided to stop inside ATT since there was no line and because I wanted to just “look” at the new iPhone one more time.

As I stared at the display model and was about to touch it a sales rep interrupted me and asked if I would like to get one and said they still had a few in stock.

jyb_musings“Probably just in white, though. Right?” I said discouragingly.

“Actually we have a few silver and black models left.”

I pointed to my watch and said, “Thanks anyway but I have to meet someone in 15 minutes and don’t have time to get a new iPhone today even if I wanted to and had the extra money.”

“Fifteen minutes is plenty of time” the sales rep assured me, “and under our new plan you don’t pay anything down and only a monthly fee of about $30.”

“Really?” I responded dumbly.

Twelve minutes later I walked out of the ATT store with a new iPhone 6. And I felt good about myself and happy to be an “early adopter” as they call it. As I walked toward the coffee shop I looked back where the line had been this morning –the line that I had smugly taken a picture of to post in Facebook later tonight to poke fun at people who seemingly had nothing better to do today than make sure they got the new iPhone the day it went on sale.

But I didn’t do that. I did post the picture—but posted it because even though I am not standing in that line in the picture, I might as well have been. In fact, I was worse. I doubt any of those eagerly waiting in line this morning went to three stores before buying their phone. And they were happy, not ashamed, to admit their enthusiasm.

Fortunately for me I don’t think anyone in this picture bothered to snap a photo of a smirking guy standing a few yards away taking a picture of them— and then post the picture of me on Facebook under the title “Pitiful.”

They had better things to do.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Theological Questions

jyb_musingsTheological question:

If you say something to someone at church that is supposed to be humorous –and only moderately inappropriate –and the other person sighs, shakes his head, and says he will pray for you, is it OK to tell him you prefer he didn’t because “I don’t want God to know we are friends”?

(Note: I did not say this. But thought to afterwards and may try out the line some time. I tend to get this comment a lot.)

===

Remember when you felt as excited about the iPhone 5 as you do today about the iPhone 6?

And thought you always would?

Erica and Matt Chua: Does it Float? Your Electronics Won’t

The biggest risk to your electronics? Accidents.  Here are pointers on how to be prepared for accidents and what to do when they happen.

This is a continuation post from Saving Your Digital Ass and Backing Up Your Computer While Traveling.

As we carry more electronics, whether at home or while traveling, we need to take special precautions to protect them.  The reality is that electronics have one nemesis: water.  There are a few other ememies such as heat, sand, and falls, but water is the ever present, catastrophic enemy of electronics.  While we want to assume our devices won’t take a bath, a small slip on a dock, a clear day that turned rainy fast, or the somewhat funny “falling-out-of-pocket” into the toilet accidents happen.  Here are tips on how to avoid aquatic catastrophe and what to do when it happens.

THE PROBLEM

Water, beer, wine and other liquids are somewhat conductive.  Luckily for us they are not that conductive, but still, electronics are filled with tiny circuits and paths for electricity to travel, if the electricity jumps its track to another one (thereby bridging circuits) you get a short circuit.  While you may remember Short Circuit as a funny movie, you won’t be laughing if your laptop, phone or camera short circuits.

PREVENTION

As with most things in life, prevention is the best medicine.  Preventing your electronics from getting wet can be as cheap and easy as putting them in Ziploc/Glad bags.  The key to this method of prevention is maximizing the time your electronics can be near liquid danger, but not get wet.  The longer you can protect them, the longer you have to remove them from a dangerous situation.  Prevention is buying time, not necessarily the solution in itself.

Keeping your electronics in a backpack versus a pocket will buy substantial time as even a driving rain will take a while to soak through.  Having your device in a waterproof bag inside the backpack will substantially decrease your risk of anything going wrong.  For smaller devices, pocket cameras and phones, Glad Freezer Zipper bags are perfect.  I’ve tested Target store brand and ZipLoc freezer bags, but the Glad Freezer Zippers seem to be most air tight.  Let me know if your testing proves otherwise.

LOCAVORista and I, simply due to having way too much camping gear, carry SeaLine Electronics Cases and Outdoor Research Sacks.  These are supposed to be completely waterproof when used properly and were recommended by kayakers.

The last method of prevention is knowing where your electronics are at all times.  This means knowing where, exactly, in your bag is your phone, camera(s), and laptop.  Knowing this will allow you to immediately remove them from a soggy bag that may have fallen into a river with your significant other.

OH SHIT!  It happened… my _______ fell into the !@&*@% water

Accidents happen, so what to do if you get your electronics wet?  Memorize this and you can save your electronics life:

  1. DO NOT TURN IT ON FOR 2 DAYS!  Water kills electronics by creating a short circuit, which isn’t possible if there is no power going through the circuits in the first place.
  2. Remove the battery (if possible).
  3. Remove any media devices such as memory card and/or SIM card.  While your device may not work again, saving your photos, music, and addresses can still be accomplished.
  4. Let the device and removed components dry separately.  There are several ways to do this: hair dryer on low for several minutes, followed by either putting it in a ZipLoc bag with dry rice or those silica packets that say “do not eat” and come with many purchases such as shoes.  (here is some detailed instructions for an iPhone, but all electronics can be treated the same).
  5. Wait, wait, don’t fret, and wait.  The longer you can wait before using the device, the better off you will be.

These steps probably seem too simple, but it works, sometimes.  There is no guarantee that your wet electronics will work again due to differing circumstances, the only thing you can do is try to prevent it and take these steps if it does happen.

—————————————————————————————————-

This article is one in a series on protecting your digital ass(ets).  Here are the other articles:

Part 1: SAVING YOUR DIGITAL ASS(ETS)

Part 2: BACKING UP PHOTOS: You can replace your clothes, backpack or husband, but photos are irreplaceable

Part 3: BACKING UP YOUR COMPUTER: At home or on the road, your photos will end up on a computer, backing that up becomes priority number one

JUST READ: OH SHIT! When accidents happen to your electronics

After all the articles have been posted they will integrated into the Preparation Section.

 

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Smiling for Pictures

jyb_musingsSmiling for pictures. A confession. 

My new family Facebook photo got me to thinking about something that has always been a little understood pet peeve of mine: Smiling for pictures. 

The kind waiter at the restaurant offered to take a picture of us tonight and we stood together and posed along the street behind us. His fist shot caused him to hesitate and give me a look that said, “C’mon guy. What’s wrong? Smile for goodness sake.” So I tried harder for his second attempt and only modestly succeeded, as you can see. It’s not really a smile but more of a pose that tries to appear as a candid shot yet could be honestly mistaken by others for a smile. Like when you aren’t sure of a person’s name and when introducing them you slur what you think is their first and last name into an almost indecipherable gibberish name that you hope sounds close enough to fool everyone involved.

And that is about the best I ever seem able to do in photos. (Note; the other profile pic of me with just my wife is an exception and I believe I was honestly laughing about something when it was taken…so it really wasn’t a successful “posed smile.”)

And the “posed smile” is the problem for me. I don’t remember when it started but as far back as I can remember I never liked posing for pictures. As a boy it was because I was–like most all boys–too restless to stand still for 6 to 7 consecutive seconds. And to be expected to smile on top of this inconvenience was simply asking too much.

Later on as a young man, I still disliked standing still but mostly didn’t smile fully because I was, in my own petty way, rebelling against whoever was demanding the picture. Sure, on the surface I may be posing for the picture. But I wanted to be clear I wasn’t anyone’s monkey and the childish rebel in me was getting a subtle satisfaction by not smiling fully for the requested picture.

And then there was the period between being a young adult and a full adult when I was in college and law school where I did pose for pictures when requested but refused to smile easily because I wanted to look smart and serious and deep (I was for a while a philosophy major and wanted to look the part) —and also not be a poser who would lower himself to manufacturing an emotion to create a fake image for others to see. In other words, I feared being a phony, maaan!

But then as an adult, no longer as restless and seeing the benefit of taking photographs with family and friends, I tried to smile but couldn’t pull it off. I don’t know if it was that I never learned when I was younger how to just smile and “say cheese” when someone was taking a picture or if there is just something in me that can’t beam happiness on cue.

Maybe there is just this odd combination of restlessness, rebellion and philosophical determination “not to give in to ‘the man'” by smiling naturally for photos. Or maybe you can’t teach an old dog a new trick. But whatever the reason, there is a “smile deficit” I suffer from in most photographs I am in. I typically look to be the least happy person in the photo. Not because I really am. I like to think my happiness is at least in the 50th percentile of people with whom I am photographed. I’m just not very good at expressing “photograph happiness.”

And my hope is that “photograph happiness” is a lot like other kinds of happiness. It’s not something that is easily seen from the outside as it is something you feel on the inside. So if you see a picture of me that I post and I appear to be in mid-scowl, just try to overlook the clueless non-pose and just know I’m probably smiling –or trying to smile–on the inside.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: My Revenge with AT&T’s Text Warnings

10397821_10154535739290515_4392604400528849591_n

Saul Kaplan: Ego and Bad Design

photo-saulI would like to go to the new $1.2 billion Cowboys Stadium in Texas to watch the movie The Matrix.   I have no interest in watching a football game there.  Full disclosure, I have never liked the Dallas Cowboys.  I think it has something to do with a mean cousin who loved them and harassed me about it in grade school.

In a classic egomaniacal move Cowboy’s owner Jerry Jones ordered a ginormous jumbotron that hangs 90 ft above the playing field spanning from one twenty yard line to the other, right in the likely flight path of many punts.

How big is this oversized HDTV?  Its display screens are 159 by 72 feet and it weighs 432 tons.  Talk about surround sound.

And talk about a design flaw.  Their user experience expert must have been so focused on delivering an incredible experience for the fans attending the game that they completely forgot that the stadium was going to host actual football games.

How big a design error is this?  You judge.

Christopher Moore, an Assistant Professor of Physics at Longwood University in Farmville, VA, blogged about the physics of punting on ilovephysics.com:

” A study in 1985 of 238 punts made by 24 different NFL punters found that punters typically don’t punt for maximum distance, but to balance distance with hang time. The study found that on average, NFL punters kick the ball at an angle of 57 degrees with an average speed of 60 mph. With these parameters, a NFL punt would have an average height of about 90 feet, which is exactly the height off the ground of the Cowboy’s scoreboard. Air resistance would probably decrease this number 10-15%, though. More important, though, were parameters for “elite” kicks. An elite kicker can boot the ball with speeds up to 70 mph. At the same average angle, that results in a height over 120 feet.”

The physics of kicking a football suggest that the jumbotron will be hit a lot.   This is a huge design screw up and Jerry Jones should be forced to move the HDTV screen into his home where I am sure it would easily fit without getting in the way.

But no, this is the NFL where team owners rule the roost.  Jerry Jones petitioned (probably more like told) NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell that a new rule would have to be created to accommodate punts that will inevitably hit the video screen.  And it was done.  The NFL announced the following new rule:

“If a ball in play strikes a video board, guide wire, sky cam or any other object, the ball will be dead immediately, and the down will be replayed at the previous spot”

That the rule will come into play is no longer hypothetical.  In the third quarter of the first exhibition game played in the new venue between the Cowboys and the Titans, the backup punter for Tennessee, A.J. Trapasso, hit the jumbotron squarely and the ball bounced straight down.  The punt was ruled dead and the down replayed.

During warm-ups before the game Trapasso had hit the screen monstrosity three times and the Titan’s starting punter, Craig Hentrich had nailed it a dozen times.

You would think they could have figured this out during the design process.  There is no room for ego in good design and I still don’t like the Dallas Cowboys.

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