Customer Serviced to Death

From News and Observer’s Check it Out column:

Have you noticed we’re being customer serviced to death? Not when we want or need it, mind you. But retailers are more willing than ever to help you when you don’t need it, as witnessed by this exchange, with only a modicum of dramatization, that occurred at a local coffeehouse, the name of which doesn’t matter because they’re all the same.

Us: Hi. We’d like a coffee and a bagel.

Them: Would you like an el diminutivo, a medio or a talla grande?

Us: Is the middle one a regular?

Them: We have an el diminutivo, a medio and a talla grande.

Us: We’ll have the middle one.

Them: Regular or decaf?

Us: It’s 8 in the dadgum morning.

Them: (Blank stare).

Us: Regular.

Them: Light or dark roast? We also have a popular el cuppo cintemante khakichinos blend.

Us: What’s that?

Them: It’s a melange of our house blend and a darker bean that speaks to an urban lifestyle.

Us: Dark.

Them: OK. And you wanted a muffin?

Us: No, an everything bagel. Toasted, butter.

Them: Do you want the butter on the side or do you want us to butter it?

Us: You butter it.

Them: Do you want it buttered before or after it’s toasted?

Us: (Long pause because, after all, it is 8 a.m. and we’re still waiting for them to hand over our first cup of coffee — dark roast, if memory serves — of the day.) Surprise me.

Them: Will that be for here or to go?

Us: (Glancing at our watch) You know, it’s almost noon. What do you folks have for lunch?

Categorized as Daily Life

Highest Point in Orange County

Photo Copyright Jean-Michel Margot

Today I was doing research for a Cub Scout Summer Activity Program and I hiked to the highest point in Orange County. Occoneechee Mountain is 867 feet high and there are about 2 miles of trails in this state park. Fishing is permitted in the two ponds at the base of the mountain.

This photo comes from this site.

Categorized as Daily Life

Remember Pop-up Books?

Today I had a meeting with my friend Pam, who is an artist and book publisher. She has created pop-up books about the Kentucky Derby, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and a garden in Chapel Hill. These make great gifts for children and adults, and all books ordered directly from Pam are signed.

According to her website:

The first movable books appeared in the 15th and 16th centuries and were actually used for astronomical, scientific and medical purposes. It was not until the middle of the 19th century that movable books became widely available and were subsequently targeted to appeal to children.

For more information, go to

Categorized as Daily Life

Grace becomes an art collector

Grace's Robot
Today we went to Local Folk Art Show that was comes to town every year. Some of the biggest names in folk and outsider art display their work. People like Sam “The Dot Man” McMillian, Miz Thang, Clyde Jones and Big Chief were there. I chatted with the artists I bought work from when I attended the show two years ago.

Anyway, there was guy named Mark May, who produces folk art robots out of blocks of wood and recylcled metal objects like keys, nails, bolts and bottlecaps. We looked at his display and Grace was really entranced by these. She spent some time looking at them, and we managed to move on.

When we were across the room, Grace told me that she was not looking at anything else until I got her a robot. I told her we could go back and look at the robots again, but that doesn’t mean we were going to get one.

She started looking at various robots, and I discovered they were more expensive than I had thought. I tried to push her towards the $25 models, but Grace being Grace, she liked a particular robot and was not to be swayed to any other cheaper options. The girl has good taste and knows what she likes. And if she is interested in art, how can I say no. Since I had already thought $25 was okay, what’s the big deal if I went to $35. The above photo is the one she chose.

We got home and Meg asked me, “I don’t mean to be judgemental, but why did you spend $35 on this?” The unstated part of the question was a block of wood with sharp metal objects for a 5-year old. The story above is the answer. And I didn’t buy anything for myself.

Categorized as Daily Life

Will I really take any job?

When you search online, looking for job openings, no site is too insignificant. Even if there is only 1 job listing, but you get that job, then the site is a success for you.

Today I found that the Durham Bulls AAA Baseball team is currently recruiting for Wool E. Bull, their family-friendly mascot. The requirements ask for special skills like juggling or riding a unicycle. Acting experience is preferred. Some of the jobs I have looked at prefer an MBA.

The scary thing about this is that I actually have mascot experience. When I was home one summer during college I was the Orange 107 Rooster for my parents’ radio station. This orange furred rooster suit was made by the same company that made the San Diego chicken. This was before every team had a mascot, so it was pretty unusual to see a “professional” mascot, or at least a professionally made, custom costume, at events sponsored by a local radio station.

My two fondest memories as the rooster were playing in a Special Olympics softball game and appearing on stage with German headbangers, The Scorpions.

Think of the fun I could have as Wool E. Bull. I better not tell Peter about this job opening. He would want me to take it.

Categorized as Daily Life

My Saturday

Draft post to follow. More detail and photos coming.

Peter competed in the Cub Scout Pinewood Derby, where a raced a small wooden car that he made with Meg.

Peter had his breakout basketball game and scored 10 points. His previous high in a game had been two points.

Grace and I went to a Father Daughter Valentine’s dance. I got her a corsage and took her out to dinner. It was the first time I had to read the menu to my date. The dance was fun, although we did not dance much. I’m not much into the limbo and she is not into line dancing. She did dance with her friend Lauren quite a bit though.

Categorized as Daily Life

Back to Zero

After having two phone interviews for two positions, I am now back to zero actual positions that I am being considered for. One position was put on hold and the other has chosen to move forward in the interview process without me. I need to email them to find out why, but my guess is that they had some folks who were a better fit.

When I told Grace I was back to zero, she asked me how many I started with. I told her two. It was sort of a surreal conversation because I did not give her any context, but she kept asking questions.

I am still meeting with people and expanding my network, but not much has materialized from this process yet. I am also trying to ramp up my “on-line applications,” so I can at least get in the running for some things.

I also need to broaden my search beyond open positions, and seek out companies that might need my services.

On the old company front, I’ve been speaking with my old boss, and he may be putting something together that would include me, but even he acknowledges that it might not be the best thing for me to do. But of course that assumes I have some other options. At this moment in time my calendar is pretty clean.

Categorized as Daily Life

Miles Davis in Kindergarten

Grace came home with a picture she had drawn and I asked her what it was. She said Miles Davis. I asked her if she knew who he was and she replied that he was a jazz musician. And so was Charlie Bird Parker, she added.

I thought this was pretty cool, so I asked her if she listened to their music. She said a little bit. I made her a CD of Miles Davis, Birth of the Cool to take to school today. She said they listened to it all day.

Categorized as Daily Life

Job Search Update

The job search is going okay. I got 2 interviews very quickly. I had a 2nd Round Interview with one company on Friday. I also had been waiting for a call back on the first interview I had. Everyone seems to want to do phone interviews first, which I think are great. I can sit at my desk, easily take notes (which I can’t really decipher later) and have their web site up on my computer.

One of the jobs is Account Manager for a Market Research firm that works with Fortune 500 companies. The other is the Marketing Manager for a Mail Order Company’s Web Site. Today I found out that the Mail Order Company will not be filling the Web Marketing Manager position at this time, but shuffle the responsibilities among other group members. I think that is a mistake, even on an objective level. People will focus on their primary job, not the web site.

I have been out of a job for a month now, and I still am just barely getting started on all the things I was looking forward to doing. I don’t really miss going to work, but I miss having a job. A job defines much of who you are, even if you don’t identify with it too much. I was Director of Marketing for a toy train company. That had great cocktail party value. Now I’m just another guy looking for a job. Don’t get me wrong, everyone is very nice and very helpful, but I no longer stand out in a crowd.

I have been very busy between job hunting, and household errands (although not enough around the house, according to Meg). I seem to have changed my focus a little bit. I really am trying to build my network of contacts, instead of “looking for a job.” This way lots of other people know I am looking and can pass on leads or referrals to other contacts. This is much more satisfying than sending resumes into the “Monster” black hole. I have to do that too, but it is very frustrating. It is much more fun meeting people for coffee for 30 minutes to an hour, than sitting in front of my computer all day. And I like coffee.

Categorized as Daily Life