Wednesday, October 31, 2007


Tomorrow, November 1st, is one of the best days of the year!

That's the day all the stores put their Halloween Candy on sale for half price or better. My Beautiful Wife is partial to Candy Corn. I like the Candy Pumpkins myself...ever gorged on sugar to the point of feeling intoxicated? Believe me, it can happen.

Like I said last year, tomorrow starts the sprint to New Year's and all the magic in between. We've been blessed this year with new family members, new friends, old friends and renewed strength and health. Here's hoping that the next 9 weeks are really special for all of you and your families.

In the meantime, if you need me I'll be here...

...if only in my dreams...

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Friday, October 26, 2007

And The Angels Sang

Have you ever had a day where things were almost perfect? I've had a few...the days my children & grand children were born, the last Christmas with my mother before she died, a few others here and there...but the most special was the day my Beautiful Wife and I were married.

Saturday October 20, 2007 was another. That day two families and two very special people came together as one. I was blessed and honored to be the smallest part of Brian and Allison's wedding celebration. I've tried for days to come up with the right words to describe everything but I can't. Instead here are some of the pictures I was lucky enough to get:

As you can see the day was almost as beautiful as Allison. She is the first of my circle of blogging friends I've met in person. I hope someday to get a chance to meet you all!

To Russ, Dave, and Jeremy: I tried my best to represent but I'm afraid a broken down old beast isn't the best this community has to offer. Sure wish you guys could have made it. I can assure all of you after meeting Brian that she in in excellent hands and she is loved "...with an everlasting love...".

To Brian: it was wonderful to meet you! I look forward to getting to know you as time goes by.

To Allison: You looked like an angel. I hope I wasn't too much of a disappointment. Thank you for letting me be a part of your special day.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Please Welcome...

Kylie Mae Monk

Born 56 years to the day after her uncle Kennith Noal Wright Jr.
(how cool is that!?!)
to parents Amberle and John

7 lbs 11 oz

Everyone is doing fine. Virtual cigars all around!
"...I am fearfully and wonderfully made..."

OK Laura, it's your turn!!


Wednesday, October 17, 2007


... L. H. O. IN CONCERT!!!

[a tasteless but interesting oldie. I know...I'm going to smoke a turd in Purgatory for this one]

A Distant Shore

Russ is leaving on a jet plane tomorrow to enjoy his spoils of victory in Florida. Hope they have a wonderful time and hope he makes it to the Cape!

I'm just disappointed we won't get a chance to harass, embarrass & show appreciation together at Brian and Allie's wedding. Yes, I'm getting to go to 'The' wedding. Can't wait to meet Allie and her bunch. My Beautiful Wife and I are thrilled that she and Brian found each other. My message to all the single guys out there who missed out: that's what you get for waiting. All I can say is I'd better get a dance with the bride! (What? You've never seen a Beast dance before?)

I will be staying with family in Harrisburg so it should be a good trip all around. Leaving insanely early tomorrow. I have been promised a 'time to remember' by family Saturday night after I get back from the wedding...I will try to report from the road (if everything stays PG) and will have a full report with some pics upon return.

...if only I had a life size cut out of Russ...then he could go with me.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Tuesday Afternoon...Forever?

I'm just beginning to see
Now I'm on my way
It doesn't matter to me
Chasing the clouds away

The weather here FINALLY started to turn again towards fall yesterday. We had a little taste the first of September but then we had 4 weeks of 95 degree days and 75 degree nights. It was muggy the whole time...thought we were in Houston. Walked out of work yesterday for the ride home and it was 'only' about 85 but with the drier air it felt glorious...kind of like Tucson! When I took a deep breath it actually felt like it was doing some good, like I was getting oxygen instead of suffocating.

Something calls to me
The trees are drawing me near
I've got to find out why
Those gentle voices I hear
Explain it all with a sigh

Yes, I hear voices (don't try to tell me you don't from time to time...I read all your Blogs...I know better) and on days like yesterday they tell me to go the opposite direction from work and obligation and keep going. Days like yesterday renew my hope. Today is a carbon copy of yesterday. I could get used to this.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007

From The Call Log

I understand what Jeremy and Laura are talking about. My experience at i2 more closely resembled their experiences...people from different regions were closer to stereotypes. There we dealt with the 5-6000 company employees and not John Q. Public. We had a narrow captive audience.

Before that I dealt with the general public. If you bought the software, opened the box and called the number or if you got the free CD in the mail and needed help, I was one of the guys you talked to. If you've ever dealt with the public you know that anything can happen. I had quite a few memorable calls--

Neatest call, a tie:

  • First - was helping a guy from Hawaii one day configure his modem. While waiting for a connection to go through I heard a steady 'whoosh--whoosh' in the back ground. I asked " that what I think it is?" He laughed and said "Yeah, I live just off the beach. I have the patio door open." Wow.

  • Second - on New Years Eve at @ 4:00 p.m. Dallas time I was talking to a guy in the Paris office of i2 Technologies with the most pleasant British accent I've ever heard. As we finished he said "Happy New Year, mate! I'm going to go celebrate New Year's in Paris with half a million of my closest Parisian friends!" Double Wow.

Most rewarding call:
Doing Windows 95 support I was talking with a guy in mid-town Manhattan. He was a professor at NYU and his wife was a real estate agent. He had all his lectures, research & class material and she had all her real estate records on their computer. He was upgrading IE from v3 to v4 (the infamous 'Active Desktop' upgrade). He had forgotten to disable his anti-virus beforehand. Anti-virus programs were notorious in those days for bricking a system if they were running during the Active Desktop install. He called his OEM when he got this black screen with a blinking cursor and a funny looking "C:\" thing. Their answer: "run restore". Wiping his drive wasn't an option so he made a paid-support call to Windows support. I got permission and walked him through a nearly 4 hour 'manual uninstall' of IE (look THAT one up in the K.B.) that requires extensive work at a DOS prompt and deft use of the 'extract' command. At the end he was up and going with no trace of any ill effects and he & his wife were ready to name their next child after me.

Funniest call, another tie:

  • First - was speaking to a gentleman named Armando in L.A. who was the proud and very enthusiastic brand new owner of what was then the fastest computer money could buy. He was trying to set up the not-so-intuitive-in-those-days internet access software that came installed. He was about 7 layers deep into things and lost. I said "Armando, let's get back to the desktop." He said "Si, si. My computer - she is on zee desktop!"

  • Second - was helping a curiously pleasant yet grouchy novice user in New Mexico from the Greatest Generation do a 'manual uninstall' of Dial Up Networking. During the lengthy reboot he was chattering away about all the technology changes and what things were like during the war when I heard a tinkling sound followed by a loud flush then "..ahh. That's better."

Some of the more unusual calls:

  • the drunk who called late one night and actually passed out while I was talking to him
  • the guy who wanted me to move in with him after fixing his problem (a whole new meaning to 'connectivity')
  • the guy who called for help fixing Outlook Express...he was a biology researcher connecting via satellite phone and internet from his camp in the middle of the Northwest Territories miles from nowhere. I could hear the generator running in the background.
  • several celebrities that called
  • a nearly 6 hour call helping someone upgrade a 486 DXII with 512 K of RAM from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 using the extremely rare 20+ set of floppy disks. All went well, just took forever. Luckily MS was way more concerned about having happy, fixed customers than about average call time.

Most meaningful call:
I was speaking with 'John' from Seattle one day. He was having trouble setting up his email program after switching to us from another provider. He was getting more irritated every passing minutes over the simplest things yet wouldn't listen to my directions and then blamed me for things not working. He was bordering on abusive. I finally stopped and said "John, look: I'm on your team. I'm here to help you. If you're not ready to work on this now, no problem. You can call us back later to finish. Or, you can cut me some slack, listen to what I'm telling you to do and we can get it done now and get you fixed." After a long pause he said in a very apologetic tone "I'm sorry. I just wanted to get my email going so my son can send me some pictures of my grandchildren. Please forgive me. I just found out today that I have terminal cancer..."---somehow, through the tears, we got him fixed.

Most fun gig:
During my time in the 2000+ seat call center I spent 9 months on the MSN Irate Team (guess who we talked to all day). There were 9 of us. I worked 4x10 shifts (Mon, Tu, Th, Friday from noon to 11). We had NO support boundaries...we could do whatever it took to fix a customer. We had NO boundaries how we talked to the customer short of profanity or insults. Each person would only take about 5 calls a day. We spent most of our time doing testing and research. We each had a 'Crash' box. Whenever a new version of some critical software came out we were given a CD and told to "Break it" then report back to Redmond. During this time we solved a major crisis: they began a program where a customer signed up for 3 years of service and received a certain brand of free computer. Only problem was hardly any of the software controlled generic modems (not a Lucent chipset modem) would connect to our access numbers. A couple of us researched the command control set from the chipset manufacturer and came up with a string that would allow nearly 100% of the customers to connect. We received special recognition from Redmond.

Best all around job:
i2. Working for them was what I would have imagined working directly for Microsoft-Google-Yahoo or any of the other high profile, high tech companies would have been like. If I had been willing to move to Bangalore I would still be working for them.

Overall I appreciated the experience I gained during this time...I was in a constant state of learning and I couldn't have bought an education like it. I love my job now but if anything ever happened that I was back on the market again I know where I would look.


Tuesday, October 02, 2007

"Thank you for calling technical support. How may I help you?"

For years I worked the 'corner grocery store' where the customers were from your own neighborhood & you always saw the same people day in and day out, morning and evening. It was easy to get to know everyone but the big drawback was standing there day after day looking out the same window watching the world pass by.

When I finally broke my 'rusty cage' I ran smack into the world of tech support. Over the next few years I did support for Windows (95, 98, ME, NT4 & 2000), Internet Explorer, MSN, EarthLink, the old AT&T @Home cable Internet access network and a stint in the i2 Technologies I.T. department.

What a different world. Now I never saw the people I was helping and those I talked to were all over the world. I learned some interesting things first hand that blew some old myths out of the water--

Nicest People: Yankees. While there are some sphincters, by and large people from the Yankee states in general and New York City in particular are very nice. If you're from Texas like me and used to people 'drawling' out everything they say and you can get past their staccato & machine gun style you find out they are really great people and a whole lot of fun to talk to.

Most unpleasant: toss up between Wisconsin and Florida (sorry, no offense to anyone from there but it's just what I and my co-workers noticed). Also, some of the states where you'd think the people would be laid back like Montana, North/South Dakota, Washington, Oregon and Idaho had their more unpleasant people. This was a big shock to me. Actually it's more complex than 'unpleasant'. That's too general of a term...I noticed an extreme air of impatience from people in these areas. I have visited some of these places, Montana especially (spent 4 months there for work one time). In person that's not what I remember at all but on the phone, after comparing hundreds of calls and talking with fellow agents it definitely comes across that way.

Deep South (Alabama, Carolina's, Georgia, etc.): these people are much more intelligent and sophisticated than most of you (including me) have been led to believe they are.

Most laid back: Hawaii. People from Hawaii were in a world of their own (can't blame 'em). They were more like what you would expect from Californians.

Most like I expected: not surprisingly people from Texas since they are the ones I know the best...and believe me, Texas has it's their share of horses butts...many not attached to a horse at all.

Like I say, these are my observations from taking well over 30,000 calls during 5 or 6 years of call center work. I still talk to people from all over the US, Canada and Puerto Rico in my current job and these observations still hold pretty close to the same. My Beautiful Wife never took many calls until she started working with me and she pretty much agrees. Don't get me wrong, you can find every kind of person and have every kind of call experience from anywhere but when I get out the broad brush this is the way it seems to fall.

Anyone else who's ever done the call center gig have any observations?