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Random Thoughts

I’ve been bad about posting anything here, so here’s a collection of random thoughts that have occurred to me since my last posting.

  • For several years I carried a PDA to keep track of appointments, jot down notes and to have important phone numbers/addresses handy. I started off with a Handspring Visor Platinum, later switched over to a Sonly Clie for a color screen and rechargeable battery. Eventually the Clie started giving me problems so I started leaving it at home more & more. Instead I carried around my “paper brain”, a 3×5 spiral bound notebook. It worked alright but pages kept getting ripped whenever people needed scrap paper. Over time it became a ragged shadow of its former self and needed replacement. A couple of weeks back I finally did replace it; this time I picked up a Moleskine or as I’ve taken to call it “my snobby paper brain”. The Moleskine was about 3 times as expensive as my old “paper brain” and I’ve read numerous articles online from devotees of these notebooks. Those articles had aroused my curiosity. I find the paper to be very smooth and pleasant to write upon, though I do need to find a pen/ink to use which doesn’t bleed through so much. I’ve been writing…
    • character ideas for games I’m playing
    • dreams I’ve had
    • things I need to get done
    • grocery lists

    … and little things like that. It’s stuff which if I ever developed the more interesting bits could end up here, but for the most part is too mundane to make me want to post it.

  • I used a print out of a Windows BSOD and a black robe I still have from several years ago to be the Blue Screen of Death for my office’s Halloween festivities. The costume netted me third place and a $10 Target gift card. Whee!
  • We were down about a third in the number of kids coming by the house last night for Halloween. Maybe the massive number of kids last year was them checking us out since it was our first year there. Or maybe something else happened, but I thought we gave out good candy and we were stocked up to give more this year. Heck, we had an entire bag left unopened after we stopped for the night. Ah well, it’ll make the office happy as I’ll bring all the candy to work to get rid of it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s candy I like (saltwater taffy to be specific) but it’s a 5lb bag and I don’t need all those calories.

Update: I forgot to mention when I someday fill up my current Moleskine, I do plan to buy another one but next time will get the grid paper version vs the ruled paper version I have now. I think the grid will be more conducive to sketching than the lines, while still having something there to keep my written words running straight across the page.

Also I meant to talk about the new light fixture I finally got installed in our upstairs hallway. When we moved into the house, there was a floresent light in the hallway. But the bulb was never plugged into the fixture as there’s no switch for it1. So we bought a simple light fixture with a built-in switch. I got the old fixture taken down but in doing so found that the screws to hold the new fixture wouldn’t fit into the electrical box in the wall. I bought a new electrical box, but when I took out the old one I got another surprise. The old box was screwed into scraps of wood to kind of clamp the box to the drywall and as soon as I had the screws out of them… the bits of wood fell down inside the wall. *insert swearing here* Putting in the new light got put off for a while… basically until I had a chat with my father-in-law. He told me what kind of electrical box to buy and the next weekend I had the light installed.

1 Technically, there is a switch at the bottom of the stairs but turning it off kills all power to the upstairs.

Up in Smoke

It was another long, dull morning at the office. Fortunately, the afternoon proved to be quite a bit more interesting. While I was examining an issue reported by one of our beta users; I heard some shouting about a fire from one end of the building. Popping my head up like a good, office gopher; I saw some people rushing about, the overhead lights that was were off and the safety lights were on. Shortly after that I was told a fan in one of the bathrooms had caught on fire, burning/melting some of the plastic of the fan. There was only a little bit of smoke right then and the fire had been put out so I went back to work. Then the smoke got worse and I stood with some co-workers near an exit with the door open to the outside for fresh air. We stayed inside as it had also just started to rain. A few minutes later, we heard sirens and were told to either go to the top floor of the building or outside. I opted to stand outside. After we were out there for something like 20 minutes; we were told to go home for the day. Which was a sweet 90 minutes early, but I had a fearsome headache presumably from the chemical fumes off the burning plastic. What a day.

Trying to lose my business? (Part 2)

Perhaps I am old-fashioned but I feel when you say you are going to do something, then you should do it. Case in point, this morning I dropped the car off at the dealership to get that shifting problem fixed. I dropped it off at approximately 7:45 AM CST (-06:00 GMT). My appointment to have them look at my car was for 9:30 AM CST (-06:00 GMT). When I dropped the car off, they told me they would call me back when the car was done or if it would require parts/maintenance not covered by the warranty.

It is now after 4:00 PM CST (-06:00 GMT) and have I heard one peep out of them? Nope. Feeling more than a little indignant at this turn of events, I tried calling them. I got a hold of a receptionist who asked me a couple of questions; presumably to route my call to the correct portion of their service dept. Then I was put on hold…

For all of 60 seconds. *Grrrr* After which I got transferred to some nameless persons voicemail. *Grrrr^2*

I was polite and left a message simply asking them to call me back with an update. I even went so far as to give them both my work and home numbers again. And to tell them when I would be leaving work, so they would have a better chance of catching me. Not that I have seen any sign that they’ve tried calling, but I am still trying to be nice and give them the benefit of the doubt. Now, I’m waiting again for them to call me back.

Update: About 10 minutes after I called the dealership, they called me back to say the car was fixed. All the repairs fell under the warranty, so I didn’t have to pay a dime. For those curious as to what was wrong:

  • The brake light switch (what they call the sensor for the ASL) was bad.
  • Additionally when they checked the car with their diagnostic software; it reported there was a problem with one of the engine coolant temperature sensors. So they replaced that as well (again this was under warranty).

Am I pleased with the customer service I received? Not especially but now that we have the car back (and particularly since they didn’t charge us for any of the parts/labor); I’m not quite as upset about it as I had been. Would I buy another VW from this dealer? It’s a bit too early to say. Their sales and finance departments are great, but the so-so treatment from the service department makes me feel hesistant to say yes.

Trying to lose my business?

Back in April, we bought a new car from Carousel Motors. And until yesterday, it’s been great. I let me explain…

Yesterday, I went home for my lunch hour. When my time was up, I went down to the car to get back to work. The car unlocked and started up without any problems. What was a problem is the ASL light turned on and stayed on. Normally, this light turns off once you press down on the brake pedal. It’s there to prevent you from shifting into gear without having the brake pressed to avoid accidents. Except now, my foot was on the brake and I was still stuck in park. I fiddled around with it for a bit, but couldn’t get aything to happen1. I rushed back inside, called by boss and worked the rest of the from home via the corporate VPN.

After work, I called the dealership but found out the service department closed an hour before I called. I talked to the salesman who sold us the car and he suggested calling the VW roadside assistance 800# to have them tow the car out. I called them up, waiting on hold for several minutes and then got to talk to *mumble, mumble #1*. He had me go out ot my car and try several things to get the car out of park. I was just nearing the end of his instructions when the battery in my phone died. *grumpf*

I tromped back up into the apartment and called back on a wired phone. Again I had to wait several minutes and then I got to talk to *mumble, mumble #2*. I explained what was wrong and what I’d done so far. He gave me the complete instructions and I wrote them down. Then I set down my phone and ran outside to try them. Success! I could now get my car out of park! Before I ran back inside to relate my success, I turned off the car and tried starting/shifting normally. No luck, that was still screwy. I went back inside, picked up the phone and… And nothing, all I got was dead air. *double grumf*

I called the roadside assistance a third time and once again had to wait several minutes for the privilege of talking to *unidentified pissy man*. This guy never gave me his name. I told him everything that I’d been through and the resuylts of their procedure for getting the car out of park. I asked if I was supposed to be ok now, or if I still needed to get it to the dealership? He grumpily answered that “of course I needed to get it to the dealership.” All this around, though not entirely their fault, was not exactly making my evening any better.

Today, I called the dealership and their receptionist was waaaaaaay to gorram happy for 7:45 AM. Fortunately, she quickly transfered me to their service department. And they answered the phone with a “Good Afternoon”. While time is relative and there was a period in my youth where I always used “Good Morning” as a greeting that was high school for crying out loud. Still, she could have just been tired by the early hour of the day, so I didn’t go off on her. I explained my problem and that the roadside assistance people had given me a procedure to get the car out of park. She said since I could technically drive it; their first opening to have somebody look at the car is next Monday. I made the appointment, but it left me feeling very disappointed. I think if this is the average level of customer service I get from them then when we replace our other car, it’s not going to be another Volkswagen. As much as I like driving the car and as good as their sales department is; if the rest of their team is lacking in customer service then it’s not worth it.

Or I could just be grumpy from having to handle all this so flippin’ early in the morning.

1 Actually, that’s not entirely accurate. All I did appeared to make things worse. After my fiddling with it, the EPC light came on. Though after following the instructions from roadside assistance that light went back out.

Update on the Nibble

Unlike the majority of Amercians, I did not head back to the office after the Memorial day weekend. Well, not back to my office anyways. Instead, I whipped out my interview suit1 and went to a job interview. It was a really good thing that I left early to get there as I got slightly lost. I stopped at a coffee shop and got directions. Yes ladies, men can and will ask for directions when we know we’re lost2.

After getting the directions sorted out (I missed overshot the street I needed to turn onto by 1 block), I arrived at the company’s office3. The building looked surprisingly new, though it was a bit warm inside. Though that could have been a combination of me being nervous and me having “suited up”. I had to fill out some paperwork (boilerplate HR background check authorization forms) and then waited a bit for my interview. Shortly, my interviewer showed up and took me back to his office. We went over my resume a bit, though it turned out his copy of my resume was missing the information about me being a UofI graduate. Fortunately, I had prepared for that eventuality by having multiple copies of my most current and most generic4 and I gave one of these copies to him. We discussed what sorts of things I do for my current employer, what I did during my college days and so forth.

But we also got off topic several times dicussing a variety of side issues: my Japan trip, Mindbridge, working for companies who close their local offices, being a non-traditional college student and so on. While I do not have an overbudence of interviews under my belt; this one felt like it went extremely well. I really felt like I made a connection with the interviewer5. As it turns out, the company is looking for 1 person for their computer operations department and 1 for their data warehouse. According the interviewer, the operations position is a bit lower than what I’m really looking for in a starting salary but he thinks I could be a good fit for the other position as well. He went on to say the company really needs to get these positions filled quickly before their busy season hits and I should hear something back in a couple of weeks.

Since the interview went so well and the only reason I was on time for it was the helpful coffee shop; I went back to have myself a little snack6. The shop is called the “Coffee Talk Cafe”. When I got there after my interview, the only people in it were the staff. The lady behind the counter was very friendly and we chatted for a bit. She wished me all kinds of good luck on my interview, while she rang me up. I got a toffee nut latte and a orange/pineapple muffin. I ate in the shop and so they nuked up the muffin, putting a little butter on top. It was divine. Yum, yum. *smile* It took them a little bit to make the latte and when the lady brought it over we chatted a bit more. Apparently, I resemble the lady’s brother and in my suit look very “professor-ish”. I left a little bit after that and am now home chilling out. I’ll br browsing the online want ads in a little bit (looking for other nibbles) but right now I feel really good about today and the interview I had.

1 Okay, it’s really my only suit.
2 We just don’t think we’re as lost as you think we do.
3 Per my long standing habit, I will not be discussing who they were.
4 Given time and available brainpower, I prefer to customize my resume for the company & job I am applying for.
5 Did I mention this person is also the hiring manager? Oh well if I hadn’t yet; I have now.
6 To be prefectly honest, this was my breakfast. I was feeling too nervous prior to the interview to want to eat anything.

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