Saturday, October 30, 2010

Time to play dress-up

As if New Orleanians needed another reason to put on costumes and party in the streets...  Time to go join the crazed masses.  Odds are good that my memory cards will be full of interesting characters when I wake up tomorrow afternoon.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Scenes from a black tie affair

'Tis giving season in the old city and all manner of philanthropic events are being realized.  While I'm busy editing pictures, you can busy yourselves by inventing backstories and conversation topics for all the people in this one.

If your goal is to become one of the many socialite philanthropists I see around, here are some easy to follow guidelines.  

Monday, October 25, 2010

Words I Enjoy: Part Two

If you didn't catch part one, you can find the introduction to my world of word nerdery here.  Part two is going to be a single word.  

Hubris - hyoo-bris - excessive pride or self confidence; arrogance.  

This word is often associated with statements such as "pride goes before the fall," or with infamous characters in literature such as Faust or Frankenstein.  Its origins go back to ancient Greece where it was actually a crime, albeit for actions much different than the modern usage.  Hubristic behavior now might not involve conscious malevolence, but it is usually damaging to somebody.  

Hubris is essentially a lack of humility.  The word can be a forceful accusation if directed against somebody else.  It is also a serious reminder if directed at oneself.  We exist in a society that values an impossible balance of self confidence and humility, and stepping back to check the scales every now and then can be a good exercise.  

You're good, but not that good.  You'll get most of what you want, but never everything.  You're often right, but not always, never always.

Cheers to the people and circumstances that keep me in check, intentional or not.

Friday, October 22, 2010

So I'm going to be an uncle

My sister is a few months along now, and this is an image of my future niece or nephew as carved into a pumpkin by my brother in law.  If you're wondering, that's a thumbs up on the side.  If all else fails, the kid should at least have a sense of humor.

And by the title you probably thought this would be some sappy post about me being an uncle.  Ha!  ...I'll save that for later.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Gotta enjoy the little things

There's a primal pleasure in shoving one's face into a giant hunk of meat.  The lion families on nature shows always look so content gnawing on zebras.  I can relate.  Maybe it's the protein intake or maybe it's the sharing of a meal with someone, but I've had many a good moment built on shared turkey legs. 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Blow this! - How not to interact with potential customers

What a better way to spend an upcoming date night than doing something that the Mrs. has wanted to do for a while; take a glass blowing class.  A quick internet search and I discover that there's a big glass blowing studio right on Magazine street.  What luck!  The website says that they offer two hour glass blowing classes, but doesn't give information on price or scheduling so I used the fancy webform on the contact page to write a simple message.  (All indented quotes have been directly copied and pasted from emails)
I'm interested in the two hour glass blowing class.  What is the cost per person (I'd have two people) and do you have classes on Saturday, 10/16?
I thought that my message was pretty clear and simple, and expected a simple answer.  Later on that evening I get a response.
Please give us a contact number in the message box. We have requested this to fill in all the blanks required to have the information automatically generate off of the computer to you. We look forward toward better assisting you as often the date you are requesting is filling up.  We want to let you know the times on the date you have requested that are are available  Thank you the admissions office...
Hmmm...  Ok.  I guess I was just expecting a short email response with a price and a couple of times.  If you wanted a phone number, create a mandatory phone number field on the webform. That and you probably could have answered my question three times in the time it took you write that b.s. about automatically generating information off the computer.  I could automatically tell that that was not an automatic response.  Whatever, I'll resubmit the form.  
I'm interested in the two hour glass blowing class.  What is the cost per person (I'd have two people) and do you have classes on Saturday, 10/16?  614-...-....
Ok, now I'll get an automatic response from the computer, right?  No, my cell phone starts to rattle the change in my pocket while I'm in a meeting at work.  Sorry, can't talk, that's why I submitted a webform.  When I get back to check my email, I've got this waiting for me.  
We tried to call you regarding your inquiry for the class on the Saturday the  16 of October, Please give us a time when we can have a two way conversation to better assist you, Thank you the admissions office
How's about you just answer my questions first?  I called the number and a woman answers assertively.  I explain that I had submitted a webform with a couple of questions earlier and that I got a message from them saying to call.  She repeats that they tried to call me earlier.  Yes, I know, I was working.  She states that they're a school and can't talk all the time either.  Ok that's the great thing about email - a response can be sent when it's convenient for only one of the parties rather than when it's convenient for both.  You should really learn to utilized this amazing technology. 

She goes into describing the class, how long it is, that we might make a few little pieces.  That's great, I got that from the website...  She finally gets around to saying that the class of $140 per person and they have a spot open at 1:30pm on Saturday.  Hooray!  Not hooray that there's a spot open, but hooray that she finally answered my questions!  Good, go, sign me up!  Oh wait, nevermind, she says that they will send me a registration form that night to complete by the next day.  Then she tells me that I'll need to wear all cotton clothing, sunglasses, and bring a camera to show everybody my new life.  Get it? My "new life," as if I'll have so much fun that I'll become addicted and quit my job so I can fully focus on exploring the magic of manipulating molten silica.  Ha, OK lady, just send me the form.

By 9:30 am the next morning, I still hadn't seen this registration form, so I responded to one of the previous emails.
Hi, I spoke with somebody there last night and they said they'd be sending me a registration form to fill out.  Will I be getting that at some point today?  Thanks, Steve
Five minutes later, my phone comes to life again.  I'm lectured that the person with the form was out of the office, but they'd still need to get my credit card number to reserve my timeslot.  Only one person can send an electronic registration form?  Odd, but if taking my credit card info works, OK.  It seems like you could've asked for this last time we spoke, but here's my number.  Before she hangs up, she coldly regurgitates "wear all cotton clothing, sunglasses, and bring a camera to show everybody your new life."  You keep saying that.  I'm not joining a cult, it's a two hour class.  You're not being a good salesperson, you're just being creepy.

Around 10pm that evening, I get sent the registration form via email.  Lo and behold it has all the same information, pricing, etc. that I was told over the last two phone conversations.  Why couldn't you have just sent this to me after my first webform submittal and saved us all time?  I looked at the form and realized that they basically already had all the information they needed from me to reserve the date.  My efficiency seeking brain asks "do I really have to print, fill out, scan, and email this back or can I just print it and take it in person?"  I made the mistake of sending them another email.

Can I bring this form to the class with me tomorrow or do I need to submit it ahead of time.  ~Thanks, Steve
A few minutes later, I get a rather unnerving response.
Please call as soon as possible as we need to talk to you. Thank  you, the admissions office
Did I do something wrong?  Did I win some super amazing glass blowing prize package?  Did Timmy fall down the well?  I call and the same lady answers.  I say that I got an email saying to call and she says abruptly tells me that she has no idea who I am.  Ok, my name is Steven H. and we've been talking for the last three days about this class.  Finally putting the pieces together she starts questioning me as to why I can't fill out the form, scan it, and send it back.  I try to explain that I'm not in the office and could get my wife to do it if really necessary, but could we just skip some steps and fax it back or bring it in person?  She very directly asks "What, you don't have a computer?" 

Ok, lady, you're warming up my arguing engine.  I dreadfully wanted to  enumerate the faults in the line of reasoning behind her question such as:
  1. I never said I didn't have a computer
  2. We've been emailing for three days now 
  3. Inability to complete the requested process would come from not having any one of the following: computer, printer, paper, scanner, writing utensil, internet, electricity, hands, eyes, literacy, etc. 
  4. Even if I lacked one or more of the items in (3), my question was if I needed to submit if before the class.  A simple "yes" would close the inquiry.  
I kept my nicey-nice pants on and repeated that I could submit it if needed, but they already had my name, class I wanted, time, date, and credit card number which is basically everything on the form.  Then she tells me that they need to get my credit card number to reserve the class.  Waitwaitwait, I already gave you my credit card information, what did you do with it?  She mumbles something about not being able to find my email address (in spite of already having sent me four emails) and because of that she must have misplaced my card information.  But don't worry, "it's safe."  You lost my credit card number, but it's safe?  Elucidate for me how exactly you can say that my credit card information is safe if you don't even know where it is.    

At that point I'd had enough.  It's one thing to be rude and sarcastic and difficult, but if you're competent, I'll give you some leeway.  If you're stupid, but you're really nice, I'll give you some leeway.  But when you're rude, sarcastic, difficult, and you f*ck up, I don't want to deal with you.  I told her to cancel my reservation.  I got a huffy "You don't want to take the class anymore?"  No thanks, I'll go blow my $280 on whiskey and ice cream sandwiches.  When you find my credit card information, please lose it again, doesn't seem like that should be a problem for you.  

Whew... That was way more complicated than it needed to be.  At least I don't have to deal with those unpleasant people anymore.  From any respectable business I might have expected a follow-up email along these lines.
Mr. Steevo, 
We apologize for losing your banking information and that we could not better accommodate your needs.  We hope that you'll consider taking classes with us in the future.  
Kind Regards,
The Admissions Office
I do get an email about two hours after my canceling my reservation.  
thank you as we have a waiting list an we quickly filled your place. The admissions office
Really?  Not a "sorry," but a "screw you, we don't need your business anyway."  Well, New Orleans School of Glassworks and Printmaking Studio, you sure seem proud that you have a waiting list and terrible interpersonal skills.  Now you're also the proud recipient of a negative write-up on an obscure blog and a one star review on not so obscure Google.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Welcome back to the fray

After being away from home for close to a week, you're generally ready for a return to normalcy.  Work, hobbies, significant other, ...giant cats, etc.  The best you can hope for on Monday is a long day of catching up on all the pleasantness that is your job.  Worst case, you sleep like crap because your cats missed you and then you get a flat tire on the way to work.

Ok, maybe worst case would be stubbing your toe or running out of coffee or realizing that the zombie apocalypse has arrived, but you get the point.  You never expect to be gliding along at 60 mph and then having your vehicle start to rumble as if the pistons were trying to escape the engine block.  The first thought that goes through your head when you've got a ten year old vehicle is a sarcastic "oh great, this p.o.s. is failing on me."  After you pull over cursing at your rotten luck, you get out and see your rear driver's side tire is half crumbled to nothing.  That's when you exclaim enthusiastically, "oh great, it's just a tire!"

Then you're even more ecstatic when you actually read your owner's manual to discover wonderful things like "I have a car jack" and "so that's how I get my spare tire out from under my truck."  After spending a few minutes moving dirty tire bits and banging lug nuts in one direction or another, you're forced to stop enjoying the fine swampiness of a Louisiana highway and make your way into work.

If you're lucky, your tires only cost $114 a piece and your boss lets you leave a bit early to get to the shop before they close.  If you're unlucky, some asshole customer backs into your car while in the parking lot of the tire shop.  They get out to examine for any damage, and seeing that the right corner of your bumper is completely caved in, they quickly drive off.  You eventually see the damage and tell the manager of the tire store who is then able to deliver the license plate number and all information about the hit and run driver to the cop that's standing in the store 15 minutes later.

What a day you've had.  Be thankful that only the flat tire happened to you, and the hit and run happened to some other customer of the tire shop while you were waiting in the lobby.

Welcome home.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Saying "hello" to nature

I set aside a couple hours for roaming in the woods on Friday, walking through dry creek beds, around a sheep farm, out to a river, over fallen trees.  Watchful deer and manic squirrels were surrounded by a steady group of yellow orange leaves giving up their grips for the year.  I was sad that I ripped a pair of jeans on a bunch of thorns, but was thrilled that I didn't fall into a menacing patch of poison ivy.  It was great to be outside for a woodsy sunset in an Ohio fall.

Seriously, though, I frigging hate poison ivy.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Fail Challenge

I don't have time to do a detailed post with a perty picture today.  Instead, I'm giving you an activity. 

Spend a few minutes (or days) on perusing the world's pranks, mistakes, and general "fails."  Then spend the rest of the day being extra observant for the fails that might be around you all the time.  Document them and submit them to failblog so everybody can enjoy and learn from somebody elses misfortune. 

Happy failing!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Time to pack

It seems hard to believe that I haven't seen an Ohio fall in four years.  The last time I breathed northern autumn air was in 2006 as I rode out my last days in academia.  I make it back up there a couple times a year, but it's typically in the summer or winter months.  I never would have imagined that one day I'd be wistful over the colors and sounds and smells brought by the droppings of deciduous trees.

This week brings a trip up north.  Time will be short between work activity at The Ohio State University campus, the usual planned visits, and the inevitable unplanned adventures, but I plan on clearing some time to go crunching through the trees.

Now to figure out how to pack six days worth of clothes, a laptop, camera junk, etc. into one carry on bag...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Galas and parties and balls, oh my!

Most of my photography "work" comes in the form of covering local events for a magazine.  Most of the events are in the form of charity auctions and fundraisers; those fancy gatherings where the well-to-do of the city get together and give away their money.  Regardless of the state of the economy, I still see a crap-load of money being given away.

I have set images that I have to deliver, so the photographic aspect of these events isn't all that interesting.  More interesting is getting to travel around New Orleans attending events that I would otherwise lack the pecuniary depth to witness.  As interesting as that can be, most of the time I'm in and out in less than an hour.  Every so often I get to go to fun things with celebrities and and athletes and politicians and I do my best to catch them making stupid faces.

October is going to be a busy month.  There were 18 events up for grabs and I took 13 of them.  It's going to be a lot of running around in addition to other travel and real work that I have, but I'm happy that photography has become a self funding activity.  I smell shiny new glass before Christmas :)

(For those of you not from New Orleans or not into the NFL, that's Saints head coach Sean Payton in the picture.)