Monday, July 21, 2008


Sixteen years ago yesterday (a Monday that year), I walked into the Attachmate offices in Factoria for the first time as an employee. I didn't have a phone, computer or even any furniture, so it was tough to do much, but they sat the two of us who'd started that day down with video tapes of Lisa Ford teaching great customer service skills. I soaked it up because there wasn't anything else to do with my time.

Though I heard lots of complaints from other people about those tapes, I haven't ever come across anything else that teaches customer service any better than that. For customer service, Lisa Ford is my hero.

I'm not sure exactly when the furniture arrived - that was the joke - "Do you have furniture yet?" Some new hires went a couple of weeks or more in those days without even having a chair to sit on because they hadn't found or purchased a spare one yet. Hiring was outstripping the capacity for facilities to keep up.

What I do know is that the first thing to arrive, even before the computer was the phone. That was in the afternoon of Day 2 or 3. Anxious for something to do that approximated technical and/or troubleshooting, I started punching buttons. Hey, why not?

Here's why not... suddenly I found myself connected with an inbound customer call and I had no idea whatsoever of how to handle it. I had no computer, no product knowledge yet, and no idea even how to transfer the call to someone else who could help. Heck, I hardly knew the names of the guys who sat near me.

"Psst! Kevin! I ended up with a call by accident, what do I do?!" Kevin (I think it was Kevin; honestly, it was 16 years - less a day or two - ago!) was kind and patient enough to walk me through the steps to transfer the call and he took it from there. Whew! Get this girl a computer, stat! It'll be so much safer that way and far better for everyone!

The weekend after I started, I got married so in five more days, I'll be celebrating my 16th wedding anniversary too. Somehow, it never occurred to me to negotiate anything beyond an extra hour of sleeping in the day after my wedding so I wandered in at the leisurely hour of 8am that second Monday of work. Somewhere in there, I ended up with a computer and a copy of the software I'd be supporting - EXTRA! for Windows. We wouldn't be trained until the rest of the new-hires started, so I began by seeing what I could figure out for myself. That turned out to be a pretty reasonable strategy as it also gave me an opportunity to assess how intuitive the software was and provide some feedback to Development.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks, the rest of the Summer of '92 class started. One of them is, to this day, one of my closest friends, as is another of my co-workers who had started a month or so ahead of me, and a high school friend of mine who had started there another couple of months before that. Another co-worker who first decoded the mysteries of hardware adapter I/O addresses and interrupts ultimately became my boss, mentor, and well-respected (by way more than just me!) friend, teaching me more than any single other person I know about what it means to be an effective leader.

In some ways, the intensity of that time period, all that we learned and gained, and the lasting impact (friendships and otherwise), had a certain summer camp feel about it. It's tough to believe it was that long ago, or that I lasted at Attachmate a total of nine years.

Long gone are the days when so many calls came in that we could never get to them all real-time, leaving the departmental receptionist to keep up as best she could with taking down names and phone numbers such that we would head up between calls to grab a stack of "callbacks". Ultimately we brought in enough new-hires and refined our processes enough to make that particular approach a thing of the past.

We also matured to the point where we were able to have desks all set up for our new hires - with a chair, even! As a manager, I always ensured that my employees never received a phone without also (or first) having a computer, even if it meant I had to steal the phone for a while until the computer arrived. You never quite know what sort of trouble a geek will get into if they haven't got a computer to play with.

If you have enduring memories of a past experience that still impact you today, do share. Or maybe there is some anniversary you're celebrating. Let's hear about it.

In the meantime, thank you from the bottom of my heart to Shawn, Burkery, Toot, and Eric (E). I'm better for knowing you. And best wishes to Renee and Shauna, whatever you're each up to these days. As Garrison Keillor might have said, it was a group that time (almost) forgot and decades cannot improve, at least in my memory.

As for my husband, the tall person, this is about the time when I remember our anniversary is coming up soon, so I'll say now - thanks for continuing to love me all these years. I know that living with a geek isn't always easy and you've made it seem to me and the rest of the world like it is. I love you (still!) for that and so much more.

What (besides a chair) do you need to get started?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Tales Worth Telling 2 - What IS That?

I keep up pretty well with current events - at least the sort that make it into the newspaper and broadcast news anyway. So a lot of times I understand what some of the hot searches are all about. Google Hot Trends searches are also a great way to catch breaking news, such as the crane collapse at the refinery in Houston the other day.

Then there are those entries in the top search list that make me scratch my head. I have no idea what they're about until I go look. Sometimes I'm sure I don't want to know or that finding out will simply be feeding some prurient interest. Sometimes I worry that by following the links to learn more, something bad might happen like I'll be placed on some government watch list or something. Of course, if it's on the Hot Trends list, in all probability I'll have lots of company there.

Today, there are a few of these. The first "Wha-aa?" is at the very top of the list, Green Gulch. On investigating, though, it turns out just to be one of those "I know what you're watching" things.

It seems that CBS News Sunday Morning profiled Green Gulch, and it must have sparked people's innate curiosity to learn more. Of course, Voice of America did a similar piece on Green Gulch nearly a month ago and I don't recall seeing that kind of spike in searches. Best guess(es)? CBS got the idea from VOA and more people watch CBS Sunday Morning News than listen to Voice of America.

For a while, I was confused about what that story had to do with "stone by design", considered by Google to be a related search. Then I discovered that Lew French's Stone By Design had been profiled by CBS News Sunday morning back in November. A-ha! Mystery (probably) solved.

Lake Placid Ironman competition - seems pretty self-explanatory. I'm not sure I'm all that curious about it or the results.

From the looks of it, not as many other people are all that curious either. As I write this, that search has dropped to number 17. The occasional spikes in searches on the Lake Placid Ironman probably have to do with coverage from CNN or people wanting to find out more about race results. And, having looked into it a bit more now (see there's that curiosity thing again. Really, the internet is a black hole), I can imagine that thunderstorms today and an expected finish time of midnight for some really would pique a bit more interest.

Roomsaver, pass. Probably featured in some news report and people are even more interested than usual right now in saving money. The most interesting aspect of this hot search item is that I can't seem to get to the website at the moment. That tells me they may be pretty new, perhaps not yet built for scaling, and some news piece grabbed enough people's attention that they're overwhelming the site at the moment.

Which brings me to my favorite on the list. Katie Holmes and her purple hands. Why would I care about Katie Holmes in the first place? And why in the world are her hands purple? Should I care about that?

Guilty pleasure or not. Inquiring minds want to know.

Investigating that one pays off with interesting stuff. Google Hot Trends searches are indeed helping create news. I'm not the only one finding out new things because of what other people are searching. Are her hands really purple? And if so, is it because of some kind of Scientology ritual?

You know what, after finding out that much, suddenly my curiosity has died. It's really not something I care about after all. There are way better things to think about than whether or not some celebrity's hands are purple, and why.

Update on the Roomsaver website - it finally loaded. It's a website (who'dathunkit). It helps you save money on hotel rooms (surprise!). They provide coupons for saving on rooms such as you might find on road trips. Okay, not a bad idea. Not super sexy either, but hey, who am I to judge? Saving money is saving money. Just remember to keep the coupons in the car.

Huntington Bank is a little trickier. It could be a bank robbery, but that was back in April and the most recent news story on the subject was three days ago. It could be because of recently posted profits when we're all feeling a bit skittish about the viability of some banks but again, that story came out Friday and none of the other banks mentioned in it are that high in the searches. Hmmm, still no joy. Time to give up for now.

On the creepy side of that search though, my concerns about randomly following links from the Hot Trends list may not be completely unfounded. It turns out there is a website called Businessuu that seems to operate by taking some of the text from top searches like these and then turn them into something vaguely... icky. I can't tell for what purpose, but surely it can't be good. I'm not linking to it. Trust me, you do not want to go in there. And if you ignore that recommendation and decide to go look for yourself and come across something unseemly or contract some gross virus, don't say I didn't warn you.

On that note, it's time to turn my back on the moving target. So, no storm chasing with Tropical Storm Dolly. I'm going to perhaps indulge in some voyeuristic tendencies and check out the Danica-Milka video of some exchange/fight they apparently had recently while trying real hard to ignore some of the idiotic comments by others. And then I'll see if The Long and the Short of It family can manage to combine some bicycling and ice cream to celebrate National Ice Cream Day.

Happy Sundae!

What puzzles you?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tales Worth Telling

One thing I am, is curious... about a lot of different things. Some of my very best work has been the result of following my curiosities. I've always hoped that various great thinkers are right, that "curiosity has its own reason for existing" (Albert Einstein), that it is "one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous mind" (Samuel Johnson), and that "curiosity is the key to creativity" (Akio Morita).

Whatever else can be said of curiosity, certainly it's true that curiosity is a sure cure for boredom (Dorothy Parker). Her assertion that there is no cure for curiosity probably explains the extraordinary amount of time I often spend in the black hole of the internet.

Alastair Reid has his own views on curiosity and whether it may have killed the cat - "Only the curious have, if they live, a tale worth telling at all." Reid's poem, Curiosity has remained one of my favorites over the years.

Since I spend a fair amount of my time indulging in my curiosities, perhaps there can be some benefit from sharing my curiosity-driven investigations and travels. Who knows, it might be as simple as shortening the time you spend satisfying curiosities of your own, or maybe it will provide further fuel for investigations that may take you someplace new and wonderful.

News and current events make me curious. Popular culture makes me curious. And I'm finding the Google Hot Trends in searches are an endless source of fascination. I don't know that I'd want to spend all my time sharing what I learn about what searches people are making but it certainly would make the time spent chasing down that stuff a bit more worthwhile. We could always give it a try anyway to see how well it works.

A sampling of a few of today's hot search trends on Google...

Starbucks is closing 600 stores. People apparently want to know more about that, especially which ones are on slated for closure (thanks to West Seattle Blog for the link to the full list). Hopefully your favorite one isn't on the list. If it is, the one across the street will probably do just as well, don't you think?

And while lots of people know Salma Hayek, the producer of Ugly Betty and Oscar-nominated actress in the movie, Frida, apparently they're not so familiar with her now-ex fiance Francois -Henri Pinault. Or perhaps it's just that it's easier to find news of their broken engagement by searching on his name instead of hers. Celebrities' lives are always wildly exciting for the general populace for some reason, and I'm not always sure why.

The Science Friday searches are apparently two-fold. On the one hand, people could be wondering more about Earthrace, the bio-fueled boat profiled in today's Science Friday broadcast that recently completed an around-the-world trip in 60 days, 23 hours, and 49 minutes, breaking the world record. Or they could be searching for more information about the announcement that NPR will be drastically reducing funding for the popular Science Friday. Or both. Good news and bad news sometimes travel together.

One search that was hot earlier in the day and is now in the process of being eclipsed by more recent topics of interest is CDARS. The Certificate of Deposit Account Registry program allows you to invest up to $50M in certificates of deposit at one bank, bypassing the standard $100,000 FDIC-insurable limit by allowing banks to apply their own interest rates to CD's purchased from other banks through them. I believe that's how it works anyway, based on what I've read so far. I wouldn't recommend taking my word for it.

In any case, with the current status of banks and the mortgage industry causing some people such concern that bank runs are even making the news, it's no wonder that increased protection is of such interest today.

Bite of Seattle is the one that truly has me puzzled though. Is Google Hot Trends showing me what geographically proximate people are searching? Or are other people really that interested in our annual summer food festival? And if it's somehow the latter, how are they hearing about it? Seeing that people are now suddenly much more interested in the Aquatennial of Minneapolis (trust me, you do not want to click on the blog that proclaims itself to be the official website for the festival without a rock-solid virus-scanner installed) and a collapsed crane in Houston, I'm thinking maybe The Bite really is that well-known outside of Seattle (or there are just htat many of us here asking the question). Go figure.

So that's as much patience (and time) I have for tracking things down today. Clearly it's always a moving target, so I have to draw the line somewhere. It will be interesting to see how far this thread travels. In the meantime, feel free to comment on whether you think it's an idea with legs or not.

What makes you curious?

In the Book

You pretty much know when you get a phone call at 5:15am that it's not going to be good. Today's call was a spoof - sounding like it came from DirecTV, trying to sell me on some new service but caller ID said I was calling myself. WTF?

Actually, if the call had come later in the morning, I might not have noticed my own name on the caller ID but at 5:15am, there was no way I was answering. In another stage of my life, when I was never home and had no answering machine I probably would have, but not these days. Hopefully it will die a quiet death, forever to remain a mystery. It sure beats the alternative anyway of having to track down some phishing punk to get them to quit calling me at odd hours.

Being in the book does have its downsides.

We're celebrating another member of the family being in a different book altogether this week. Tall person made it into the 2008 edition of Chambers USA for his environmental work and he just recently received his free copy. We've been "ooh"-ing and "ahh"-ing over the printed compliments ever since.

Unlike the Who's Who Among American High School Students that I regret to say we spent money on when I was a kid (it was tougher to know back then what a scam that was), Chambers is a highly respected directory of top lawyers used by many in-house counsel to find attorneys that other top clients recommend. It's a coup to be listed and we're very proud of the tall guy. Fortunately, he's tall enough, it'll be less noticeable if his head swells.

Speaking of books... if you've got some goal you're working on (like, say, getting rid of unwanted early-morning callers) and you care enough about the outcome to want to improve your chances of success, you might want to check out Get a GRIP on GOALS, the new eBook that I just released with Kjerstin Klein. It's totally free at this point but we're sure the value is much, much higher. Maybe not as high as a listing in Chambers but pretty worthwhile anyway and a lot easier to obtain.

By the way - comments are fixed now. Join the fun . Talk about how much you like the eBooks, don't like most lawyers except the ones you know who are actually cool people and "nice too!", whatever. Getting spoofed phishing calls doesn't make me feel less lonely. Hearing from you does!

Where would you want your name listed?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Time - Learning or Wasted?

While I believe no time or experience is ever truly wasted, sometimes I totally get into the fun of solving the puzzle and sometimes I just want it solved.

Today, I'd really just like for PayPal buttons to integrate seamlessly into pages. I don't really feel like putting a lot of effort into figuring out how to make that happen. I've already had as much fun as I feel like having learning that I'm not crazy - that there is no easy bridge between Here and There when it comes to PayPal and

Likewise, I anticipate that investing a bit more time into a related matter will result in discovering that Microsoft has broken their own rules. Apparently building a web site with Microsoft Expression Web is insufficient insurance against having code render badly in Microsoft Internet Explorer.

While FireFox is happy to render code from the Adrotator control referencing a non-existent ImageUrl by displaying the AlternateText instead (as the definition implies it should), Microsoft instead chooses to hack up a hairball, announce to the whole world there is no image to be had and not apply the desired formatting to the alternate text.

Sooner or later, I'll figure out how to make it all happy. I'd rather it be sooner than later. Most of the visitors to the Soaring Mountain website are still using IE so even though I'm pretty sure it's not my fault, it's still embarrassing to have it look that bad. To date, I've been happy enough just to tinker away with it every so often and the rest of the time hide my head in the sand, accessing my own website using Firefox exclusively and pretending there isn't a problem... but that's getting old. Now I just want it fixed.

Of course, if you know of any answers or solutions for either issue, I'm willing to consider suggestions. I'm a total hack at coding and I never pretend to be otherwise; my time is definitely better spent coaching.

How would you rather spend your time?

Friday, July 04, 2008

By the Numbers - Apologies to Harper's Index

95 - the number of honks a Yukon Denali car alarm makes before stopping
2 - the number of minutes a Denali car alarm remains silent before starting up again
Random - regularity with which the above pattern is repeated
17 - minimum number of cycles required to establish reasonable level of accuracy of the aforementioned pattern
1 - number of black Yukon Denalis parked in my neighborhood
0 - number of black Yukon Denalis in my neighborhood of which I was aware before last night
1.25 - number of blocks away the Yukon Denali is parked
159 - number of times more annoying a constant car alarm is than a series of severe thunderstorms resulting in 3000 lightning strikes in a 24-hr period
911 and 0330 - the phone number I dialed and the time I dialed it
zip, zilch, nothing, de nada - number of productive actions a police officer can take in the middle of the night with a secured vehicle and a constantly blaring alarm
65 - estimated possible number of neighbors robbed of sleep
2.5 - approximate number of hours it takes for the battery of a Yukon Denali with a sounding car alarm to run down enough to not have to hear it anymore
10 - range, in yards, required to hear a Denali car alarm after 5 hours or more of constant sounding
3 - expected number of days before the owner of the Denali discovers the dead battery
4 - number of hairs left on his head after trying to figure out why his battery is dead
15 - approximate percentage drop in volume resulting from closing the windows
6 - degrees Fahrenheit room temperature rises with no airflow due to closed windows
20 - suggested number of minutes manufacturers should configure car alarms to run before shutting down under the assumption that anyone who can respond will have done so already
60 - maximum number of minutes for the above
59.99 - minimum number of dollars expected to pay for a decent truck battery charger
116.98 - average price, in dollars, of a new battery suitable for a Yukon Denali
priceless - the value of a good night's sleep

How do numbers affect your life?