June 28, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 27

--- 1 ---
My cell phone company loves me so much that it's willing to wake me up the middle of the night -- two days in a row -- to ask if the service has improved. Sprint had a tower outage which left us with limited service at home for a couple of days. After hearing my complaints last Friday, a supervisor said the tower would be back online by Sunday, and Sprint would call me to verify that my service was back. Well, I appreciate that they fixed the tower just before midnight Friday night, but I wish they hadn't tried to call me at that very moment to let me know. I ignored that call but answered when they called again just before midnight Saturday. I said, "You're really calling me in the middle of the night to check on my service?" Then I gave the Sprint rep an earful of click, if you know what I mean.
--- 2 ---
I'm thinking of cutting the cord. We watch so little "regular" TV in our household that it seems silly to have satellite service. So I ordered a Roku box and will ditch the dish if we like it.

--- 3 ---
Bubble Camp was a bust. Our six-year-old just finished four days of the school district's Bubble Camp which was advertised like this: "Joy of discovery sparkles in the iridescence, surface tension, buoyancy, and shape of bubbles! In a hugely entertaining learning-station format, this camp will use tabletop activities to present exploratory lessons in math and science."

But what they mostly did for three-and-a-half hours each day was eat (breakfast, snack and lunch!), play on the playground, blow a few bubbles and watch cartoons including the, uhh,  highly educational Scooby Doo and The Snorks. A couple of times, they did try to measure bubbles and compare which type of gum produced the biggest bubbles. But this was hardly a deep educational experience. As one parent said, we could have saved $120 and blown bubbles at home.

--- 4 ---
Our daughter usually takes family prayer time seriously. But other times we use prayers to put her to sleep. A couple of nights ago she was having trouble falling asleep, so I told her I would "Rosary her to sleep." But apparently, she didn't think she needed a full Rosary to knock her out. She said, "Daddy, just say the Divine Mercy Chaplet since that only takes about five minutes." Hey, I'm happy that she's only six but already knows her prayers.

--- 5 ---
I'm not a prolific Twitter user, but I've come to appreciate the #CatholicFollowChain. Many of these tweets are perfect for those times when you need a quick spiritual pick-me-up in the midst of a challenging day. A few people appreciated my highly profound tweet about the second commandment. I have to admit, the only reason I started using Twitter was to get quick updates on Major League Baseball non-waiver trade deadline news last summer. But now I've branched out.

--- 6 ---
I'm sure there must be some regulation that requires "Serving Suggestion" to be listed on food labels. That makes sense. Your cereal box may show the cereal in a bowl with milk, but that's just a suggested way to eat it. But at the dinner table the other night, I kept staring at the ketchup bottle trying to figure out how this is a feasible suggestion for serving ketchup:

--- 7 ---
The cool kids always sit in the back of the school bus. Well, not always. My elementary school posted this picture from the mid-1970s of kids on the bus heading to a kindergarten field trip. I'm not certain, but I'm pretty sure I'm the kid in the back on the right (see arrow). Clearly the Moe (from the Three Stooges) hairstyle was extremely popular back then.

Just say Moe. (Courtesy: Facebook)

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.

June 22, 2013

An Introvert's Guide to Shopping - Part 1

I will never set foot in Men's Wearhouse again, but it has nothing to do with the recent firing of the "You're gonna like the way you look. I guarantee it" guy from the commercials. My one and only experience in this store demonstrates that some businesses simply don't cater to introverts.

About 12 years ago I was starting a new job and needed to buy a couple of blazers in a hurry. I had never been to Men's Wearhouse before but decided to give it a try. However, I didn't stick around for long.

In general, I hate shopping. And I don't like to be harassed by store employees while I'm shopping. I don't remember the exact details of the conversation, but I will recreate the experience for you to the best of my recollection:
[Adam walks into Men's Wearhouse. An overly-anxious salesman pounces, steps too closely, invades Adam's personal space and reaches out for a handshake.]

SALESMAN: Hi, my name is Jeff. Welcome to Men's Wearhouse. What are you shopping for today?

[Adam reluctantly shakes his hand.]

ADAM: Thanks. I'm just looking around.

[Adam attempts to walk past Jeff, but Jeff obstructs.]

JEFF: Great! I'm here to help. What is it that you're looking for?

[Adam's anxiety increases.]

ADAM: Well, I just want to look around at some jackets.

JEFF:  Excellent! What size are you?

[Adam's anxiety increases even more, and his voice changes to an annoyed tone.]

ADAM: I don't know. I just want to look first, if you'll let me.

JEFF: I'm just trying to help you. Let's measure you and then take a look at some jackets in your size.

[Adam reaches the point of no return.]

ADAM: Obviously you aren't going to let me look around. So I'll take my business elsewhere!

[Adam quickly walks out the door and never returns.]

"I'm gonna harass you as soon as you step into the store. I guarantee it." (Photo courtesy: latimes.com)

This is a good lesson for businesses on how NOT to treat an introvert. If I want to browse on my own, then please leave me alone. If I need help, I'll ask. I'll offer some other friendly customer service advice, someday, in Part 2
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June 21, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 26

--- 1 ---
May I pour you a refreshing glass of chlorine? Our water provider is doing a "chlorine burn out" over the next few weeks. As a result, everyone's water smells like chlorine and has a brown tinge with some occasional sediment in it. But the city swears it's safe to drink. Every time I look in the toilet, I always want to accuse my kid of not flushing. But it's just the discolored water. Gross. Fortunately, what comes out of the filtered water dispenser in our fridge tastes, smells and looks fine.

--- 2 ---
If I get desperate for something to drink, I'll just reach for my printer. Yes, I found another silly warning label as I was replacing the ink cartridge. Someone out there must have opened one of them up and decided that the ink would be good to drink. Hence this warning from Epson on the box and the product specification sheet:

--- 3 ---
Does it count? I think so. On Monday I went to confession at lunchtime at a parish near my workplace but had a hard time understanding the priest's accent. I made a good faith effort to do what I think my penance was. But honestly, I really couldn't understand everything he said. Yes, I should have asked him to repeat it. But my fear was that he would say it again and I still wouldn't understand. It may have been easier had it been a face-to-face confession. But this was an old-style confession booth, so that was not an option. I hate admitting this because I don't want it to sound like I would have preferred a priest without an accent.

--- 4 ---
Clearly I was not destined to get my oil changed on Father's Day weekend. This could (and may still) be a blog post of its own. But the short summary is that the first place I went to made me wait along time before even asking me what I needed; then the worker didn't seem to know what transmission fluid was. So I said never mind and left. Next, I dropped my car off at another place that said it would take about an hour-and-a-half for an oil change, tire rotation and changing transmission fluid. I went back three hours later and after stumbling around to check on the stat us of my car, the manager said they hadn't even started the work. So I bailed on this place too.

--- 5 ---
I think about 95 percent of what comes in my (snail) mailbox is junk mail and goes directly into the shredder/recycle pile. I'd give you a more accurate percentage but, well, I'm no math expert. Maybe Kramer on Seinfeld was on to something when he tried to cancel his mail service.

Courtesy: huttotx.gov
--- 6 ---
It's been many years since I've subscribed to an old-fashioned hard-copy newspaper. It's just too easy and convenient to get the same information electronically. But the local community paper likes to deliver the paper to everyone in our neighborhood every once in a while in an attempt to get people to subscribe. It's sort of pain to have to walk out to the driveway, pick up the newspaper and then toss it into the recycle bin. Maybe if I leave the recycle bin out front, the paper delivery person can save me the trouble and throw the unwanted newspaper directly into the bin.
--- 7 ---
My favorite scene from The Sopranos is... Well, I have no idea. I've never seen the show. (Remember, I don't watch much TV.) But judging by all the media coverage of the death of James Gandolfni this week, he seems to be more revered than professional athletes, world leaders and other celebrities.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.
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June 15, 2013

A Math Hater's Guide to Restaurant Tipping

Learning math was easy... until my first grade teacher introduced us to that crazy "carry the one" stuff when adding double digits. And don't even get me started on how shocked I was when the teacher first explained the existence fractions and negative numbers. (How could there be a number smaller than zero?)

Courtesy: drewsmarketingminute.com
But as a confessed math hater, I will concede that there are a few situations in life where it is handy to know how to do some basic math. No, not calculus (whatever that is) -- just simple addition. One such instance is when you eat in a restaurant, and it's time to pay your bill.

Restaurant servers generally seem to be an underpaid and under-appreciated bunch. So I try to be a good tipper unless something horrible happens. By doing so, I'm helping out someone who has a tough job and, selfishly, I'm making my life a little easier by not having to do so much math. When in (mathematical) doubt, I always round up.

So the first step when the bill comes is to figure out how much to tip. Let's say the bill is $38.69. Don't even ask me to try to calculate what 15% or 20% of $38.69 is. Instead, what I do is look at the amount of sales tax on the bill. In this case, it would be $3.19 because the sales tax rate where I live is 8.25%.

So if I double the amount of sales tax on the bill, that will give me a 16.50% tip which is within the acceptable range. Doubling $3.19 in my head is easy enough, even for me. Three times two is six, and I would round the 19-cents up to 20 since doubling 20 is easier than doubling 19. Are you still following me?

Therefore, my first inclination would be to add a tip of $6.40 to the credit card receipt. But I can't stop there because, remember, the total bill amount is $38.69, so I wouldn't want to have to to add 40-cents plus 69-cents and "carry the one" in my head (or on paper). So I'll save myself the trouble and just knock the tip amount up to $7 and not have to mess with the cents column at all.

As for adding $38 plus $7, I can do that easily on my fingers if needed (and with my hand in my lap or under the table so nobody notices). Voila! The server would get a $7 tip, and my total credit card bill would be $45.69.

It's a convenient, albeit sad and pathetic, way for a math hater to calculate a tip. Any questions?
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June 14, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 25

--- 1 ---
I am not emotionally attached to my former real estate agent. But apparently, he wants us to be. It's been six years since he sold our old house. Once in a while, we get junk mail from his office. But the letter we received this week gave me a good laugh. In an act of desperation after his signature, it said, "P.S. Please call me just to catch up on things - I would love to hear from you!" Gee, how nice that he wants to catch up (sarcasm font).

--- 2 ---
I rarely dig into my email spam folder. But I glanced at it the other day to see if I had missed something. One of the spam email subject lines said, "I demand that you read this alert entirely!" I guess that's the email equivalent of getting junk (snail) mail that says, "Urgent, open immediately." In either case, I'm not opening it.

--- 3 ---
For every funny warning label, there must be (at least) one person out there who tried to do something that was -- uhhh -- not too bright. Take, for example, this little toy plastic fire extinguisher that's in our playroom.

The packaging actually said, "Warning: This is a toy. Do not use to fight fires." I feel sorry for the person whose house caught on fire and reached for this toy to put it out.
--- 4 ---
Everyone makes mistakes, but it's especially glaring to see a typo on a mass-produced product. Or is my daughter's Giant Ink Pad supposed to be "fade resident?"

--- 5 ---
"Well, at least she has nice leg." That was the response from one of my comedically-gifted Facebook friends after I posted this picture. My daughter was disappointed that a leg broke off one of her Polly Pockets dolls. But she improvised and came up with this. I'm both frightened and amused.

--- 6 ---
We had a spiritually-powerful weekend. On Saturday, we attended the ordination ceremony of five new priests. We know three of them: One was from our parish, another spent his pastoral year at our parish, and the third one was the former music director at the parish where we got married (and he played the piano at our wedding). Then on Sunday we attended our parish priest's first Mass.

Courtesy: Diocese of Austin via Facebook

--- 7 ---
There's no such thing as a free lunch. The receipt from the restaurant where we ate after the ordination ceremony had a link to an online survey. So I filled it out and mentioned that I really liked the food but didn't like two things:

1) We had ask -- twice! -- for silverware and napkins.
2) We occasionally had to shoo a fly away from our food.

The next day, I received a voice mail from the manager saying he put my name on their "VIP list" for two free entrees on our next visit. I have mixed feelings about this. I wasn't angling for a freebie, and the "VIP list" is probably a euphemism for the you-know-what list.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.
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June 7, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday - Vol. 24

--- 1 ---
I need help with a math problem. Or maybe it's a religious problem. Or perhaps it's both. At daily Mass on Monday, the priest started off his homily like this: "I can summarize today's readings in four words- temperance and patience." I spent the next couple of minutes (when I should have been paying attention to what else he said) replaying that sentence in my head and trying to figure out how that adds up to four words!

--- 2 ---
From pianist to priest: Tomorrow, the former choir director who played the piano at our wedding back in 2005 (actually, we've been married since 2004; but that's another story) will be ordained a priest. I'm not sure what parish he'll be assigned to, but the choir better be on its toes whenever he celebrates Mass. 

--- 3 ---
The day after I wrote about cell phones ringing in church, several of them rang during our parish's observation of the special hour of adoration.  But I was sitting too far away to be able to determine whether the offenders were lungers, concealers, bailers, bumblers or innocent victims. It was a good ceremony nonetheless.

--- 4 ---
It's a cliche to say that kids grow up so fast. But they do. I was both sad and proud to drop my daughter off at school on Tuesday morning for her last day as a first grader. Once I got past the daily stress of getting her up, fed, dressed and out the door each morning, I really enjoyed our daddy/daughter time that we spent waiting in the school lobby for the first bell to ring each day. Then on the first day after the school year ended, she asked me why I don't get a summer break too. Awwww. I wish I did.

--- 5 ---
My daughter's school always made a big deal about offering healthy options in the cafeteria, but apparently not on the last day of school. The entree choice was a hot dog or a corn dog. I guess the hot dog was the healthier option. (And thank goodness we almost always pack her lunch.)

--- 6 ---
Food and patriotism go hand in hand. I never saw this until the end of the school year, but my daughter drew this a few months ago when the first graders were asked why they love America on September 11.

--- 7 ---
Have you heard about the new line of Hello Kitty accessories for men? Neither have I. But in a pinch, I had to borrow my daughter's lunchbox yesterday. Nobody at work noticed.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary.
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June 2, 2013

For Whom the Cell Tolls

It's one of the worst places your cell phone can ring -- church. Though I don't recall ever committing such an offense (introverts are extra careful NOT to draw attention to themselves), I've witnessed it often enough to notice some common traits among the offenders. And I'll always remember the one priest who used to say, "That better be God calling!"

Did you know that there are only five types of people whose phones ring in church? As a public service, I will provide you with a handy list of the different classifications. So the next time someone's phone rings during Mass (or anywhere else this shouldn't happen), you can easily identify them.

Is the person a Lunger, a Concealer, a Bailer, a Bumbler or an Innocent Victim?

Lunger: This is the most common type you will see. As soon as the phone rings in chuch, the lunger will immediately panic and visibly (and not quietly) lunge for wherever his or her phone is. It may be in a pocket, a purse, a diaper bag or sitting right there on the pew. But this person immediately realizes the offense and practically dives for the phone to stop the ringing as quickly as possible.

Concealer: If my phone ever rang during Mass (and trust me, I will never let that happen), I would be a concealer. That's because concealers try not to draw any additional attention to themselves. They realize their offense but very calmly and discreetly slide their hand down to their phone and shut it off. While the lunger attracts additional attention by moving abruptly, the concealer treats it like a clandestine operation so that perhaps nobody other than those sitting immediately nearby will know whose phone was ringing.

Bailer: The bailer is an interesting breed. As soon as the phone rings, this person will immediately jump up in the middle of Mass and high-tail it for the door. Apparently, bailing out is quicker than reaching down and shutting it off. Perhaps the bailer doesn't know how to turn off the ringer or is expecting an important call. Or maybe the phone is buried so deeply in a bag or pocket that it would take longer to dig it out. To me, bailing out seems even more disruptive and it pretty much draws everyone's attention. But I'm sure the bailers have their reasons.

Bumbler: This is an unfortunate bunch. Their phone rings, but when they pull it out, they bumble around with it because they aren't sure how to stop the rining. So it ends up ringing a couple of more times right in the middle of church. I guess it makes sense that if you don't know how to silence your phone before walking into the church, then you are even less likely to be able to silence it urgently when it rings in the middle of the service.

Innocent Victim: I feel the most sorry for the innocent victims, and I have some (unnecessary) anxiety that this may happen to me one day. These are the folks who are sitting next to a friend, relative or even a stranger in Mass, and for whatever reason, that other person steps away for a moment (bathroom break, etc.). Unbeknownst to you, the person left his or her cell phone in the pew and suddenly it starts to ring. You are the innocent victim and have to turn off the phone yourself. Of course, everyone around you thinks that you are the offender.

Some of these classifications can be combined. For example, I went to daily Mass on Saturday morning and witnessed a rare Innocent Victim-Bumbler combo. During communion, a man made it back to the pew before his wife. As he was about to sit down, her cell phone started to ring inside her purse. That qualifies him as an innocent victim. She got there a few seconds later and couldn't figure out how to silence it, so it rang several times. Yes, that makes her a bumbler.

But that wasn't the end of it. Now I need to add a sixth classification, the Repeat Offender. A few minutes later, her phone rang again. So she was never able to silence it after the first call. At this point, if you are a bumbler and a repeat offender, then it's time to be a bailer!


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