Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Call Centers

I just have to get up on my soapbox about a pet peeve of mine -- call centers.  

You may know the drill.  You call the toll free (or sometimes not toll free) number that is given for customer service.  You get the obligatory recorded message giving you nine different options to choose from.  Heaven forbid you don't listen closely, because then you have to go through the entire thing again!  You push you number and.....

You get the next menu of recorded options, with nine more choices.  You take great care to listen carefully, because you don't want to go through this again.  You press the number that most closely relates to why you called in the first place (assuming you remember by now.)  And then...

You hear the 'click' as your call is transferred to somewhere overseas, because workers here in the U.S. demand pesky things like decent wages, and benefits.  These eat into corporate profits, so they are bad.  But I digress....the person who answers speaks very proper, albeit heavily accented, English.  But they don't understand the idioms we Americans love to use, and they don't understand the nuances of what you are saying.  

You vow to remain calm while you are attempting to get (in this case) your bill corrected.  You explain that there is an error on your bill.  The person on the other end tells you how much you owe.  You explain that no, that's not the right amount.  The person on the other end tells you how much you owe (the same amount again.)  And so it goes....  

After the first three minutes, your voice raises.  You begin to swear in your mind, hoping the words don't make it to your lips.  You attempt to explain again.  Finally, you are getting somewhere, as the person places you on hold.  Yep, this is the one time when going on hold is a positive thing.  

Five minutes later (why do hold times always seem to average five minutes) the person on the other end of the line comes back to tell you that yes, you are correct, there is an error.  Here is the right amount.  

But wait -- the amount she quotes is LESS than what you owe.  Your desire to be honest wars with your desire to stick it to the company who put you through this in the first place.  What would you do?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Fun Monday - Careers

I've been out of town (and then trying to catch up from being out of town) the last couple weeks, and have missed playing along on Fun Monday. I'm finally caught up beyond caring about being behind, I just wanna have some fun.

This weeks hostess is Dungareesablaze at the Irish Coffee House and here's a great topic for those of us who like to use our blog as a way of remembering things...

Careers- Then and Now

THEN: As a child day dreaming of what your future would hold for you, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did you ever pursue or achieve it?

NOW: If you could be trained and placed in any career beginning tomorrow, what would it be?

My destiny was clear in my mind from second grade onward - I was going to be a veterinarian. That is, until my senior year in high school, when I met my first love. I just couldn't bear to be separated from him by going away to college. Unfortunately, he didn't tell me not to give up on my dreams, that he would wait for me, we would make it work; the way I now understand that true love does. So I changed my dreams for him. The relationship didn't last, but by the time it was over I was too far into my degree (and student loans) to change majors.

I majored in accounting, because I was good at math. Not exactly the best way to choose a career. I ended up with an internship at a really big company my senior year of college, and this led to my relocating from KY to NH.

A few years later I was still in NH, independent and financially successful, but not really happy in my career (or other areas, but that's a story for another day.) Someone said to me - "why don't you do something else if you are so unhappy?" I decided to look into vet school. I visited the nearest vet school, and they told me the first thing I needed to do was arrange to work with a local vet. I went to the nearest vet's office, and he scheduled me to work with him weekends for a month.

Among those who have influenced me, I have to rank him among the most positive of influences. He took the time to make me really think about what I wanted to do, and to understand what would be required to make this career change. He let me fully observe the activities at his veterinary hospital and realize what really is involved in veterinary medicine. And he told me "You don't do this because you love animals. If you love animals, there are plenty of other ways to be around them and help them. You do this because you love the science of veterinary medicine."

In the end, I understood that I would have to go to school for 4-6 years, incur massive student debt, and when I graduated I would make less than I was making in my current job. And being a vet didn't look quite as glamorous as it did when I had no experience in the field beyond taking my own animals to the vet. I realized that my dream was more of a fantasy - an idea I had created based on a love of animals without adequate consideration of what the career involved. Instead of changing careers, I looked for a new job. Preferably one with lots of opportunities for travel, which was the one part of my current job that I actually liked.

I found a great job, got a huge pay increase, traveled extensively, and while on the road, met Kilowatt.

I'm happily married to Kilowatt, with a wonderful daughter who teaches me something new every day.

I explored a few other career options along the way. I considered teaching high school math (shudder), I've been (and still am) a travel consultant, and I've taught computer and accounting classes.

This fall, I'm starting a PhD program in accounting, so I can teach and do research in my favorite areas of accounting: forensic accounting and accounting systems. So I think this answers the 2nd question.

And while I reflect back over how I got to where I am today, I am reminded of the Garth Brooks song Unanswered Prayers: "I guess the Lord knows what he's doin' after all"

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Cute Crowns!

Every now and then I get a really great idea for something crafty. It usually is really involved, and typically Kilowatt must rescue me from myself as I try to create something beyond my capabilities.

This one is no exception. I came up with the idea Saturday afternoon. Asked Kilowatt for help figuring out how on earth to cut chipboard into the shape of a crown. I have a Cricut (cutting machine) but no way is it going to cut something as thick as chipboard. Kilowatt has the real cutting tools. Tables saws and routers.

A few hours later, he concludes that chipboard is too much like paper to cut well with a router. So off to AC Moore we go to look for an alternate material (or cutting tool.) While I admired the $500 Pazzles that cuts chipboard, there's no money in this family's budget for one of those. So it was on to Kilowatt's favorite place - Home Depot.

There we found hardboard, which the router loves. A few hours today and here are the results -- autograph books/photo albums shaped like crowns for little princesses.

Bristol, CT Pictures

The previous post talks in more detail about where these were taken.... I finally took the time to pull some photos off of my camera.

First, from the Watch and Clock Museum, one of my favorites:

Next, from the Carousel Museum, one of the most interesting animals. Not the metal handle on the horses withers - this is where the rider held on for dear life as the horse flew down the track.

Finally, a view of Lake Compounce....

and the fabulous Boulder Dash...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Quick Update

Summer is a time for creating new memories.  I am amazed at how different each summer is.  Even though we are doing the same things, they are different as Diva matures into a "tween" and Kilowatt and I just mature.  

The family held a surprise 75th birthday party for my Father-in-law, so we took a July 4 road trip to New York state.  On the way we decided to take a mini-vacation, so I pulled out my "Reader's Digest Guide to Off the Beaten Path Attractions."  This led us to Bristol, CT, home of ESPN.  

No one in my family is a sports fan, so we looked with only mild interest at the satellites in the parking lot of the home of "Sports Center."  Our destinations were much more interesting.

First, we visited the American Watch and Clock Museum.   I promise to post some pics after I get them off my camera.  Imagine a room filled with grandfather clocks.  Imagine 11 o'clock in a room filled with grandfather clocks.  Mechanically inclined Kilowatt loved the clock mechanisms.  I loved the section dedicated to Disney character watches and clocks.  Diva loved the sound of numerous clocks chiming 11 times.  

Our travels led us next to the New England Carousel Museum.  I have a thing for carousels, and have wanted to visit this museum for many years.  The collection includes some fascinating carousel animals (did you know there was once a horse race ride where you zipped along at 40 miles per hour secured only by two metal handles on the side of a wooden horse?)  There is also an old Wurlitzer carousel organ that plays the lovely (and very loud) music that accompanies riders on traditional carousels.  Diva loved the carousel organ (see a trend here?)

Our final stop on our tour of Bristol attractions led us to Lake Compounce, America's oldest continuously operating amusement park.  We were a bit hesitant to spend the admission price when we only had five or six hours to enjoy the park, but the lure of an old wooden roller coaster was too much to resist.  Little did we know what treat was in store for us....

Let me digress a bit by explaining that in my younger days, I was quite the roller coaster connoisseur.  A group of friends and I once drove four hours just to ride a wooden roller coaster that Money Magazine had listed in it's Top Ten roller coasters list.  There was a time when I would ride any coaster in the country.  As steel coasters have become more extreme, and I've become less daring, I now limit my coasters to wooden coasters (which will always be my favorite) and those with minimal inversions and average size drops.  

Anyway, back to Lake Compounce.  They have a wooden roller coaster called Boulder Dash that is built into the side of a mountain.  This coaster was worth the price of admission, and there were virtually no lines to ride.  I have to rank this among the best coasters I've ever ridden, and well worth a visit to CT.  Even for non-coaster fans this is an excellent park, most notable is how clean and well-maintained the park is.  

Once I've recovered from the trip I'll post pictures!