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Customer service humanity Thu, Aug 13, 2015
I've had a couple customer service experiences lately that I wished included more of a "human" feel to them.  One was when I ordered something online and was told when to be at my house to receive delivery.  I was notified and reminded several times of the timeframe, as well as the new timeframe due to a delay.  When that time window came and went, I called the company to see what was up.  They said essentially, "Whoops, how about tomorrow?"  Tomorrow's time window came and went, so I called the company again.  They said essentially, "The truck is on its way, albeit 28 hours later than originally intended." 

Twenty-eight fucking hours.  We live in a ridiculously technologically modern age.  Everyone can be contacted at all times in a variety of ways.  How did you not get around to delivering my stuff on the right day, and how did you not figure out how to contact me to tell me before it didn't happen?  How did you still miss the time window on the second day, not contact me to tell me about it, and then proceed to send me a survey asking about my purchasing experience?  "How satisfied were you with the timing of the delivery?"  Not very satisfied, asshole. 

A few days later, the electric got shut off at my new house.  It was probably a simple mix-up, or that's what I'd like to believe.  A simple call to the electric company should solve that.  But no, the electric company says we have to call back the following business day (since it was after hours), and service will be restored the day after that.  So that's two days without power, all because I didn't transfer utilities in the 4 days since I signed the fucking closing papers.  I talked to a customer service idiot on  the service restoration day to ask what time the technician would be there.  Her answer:  Sometime between 8 am and 6 pm.  I asked her in the event that she lost power at her house, if that would be a good answer.  She said no. 

I just wish companies weren't so stupidly rigid.  I understand that nobody has time to address each and every circumstance like it's a beautiful unique experience to enrich a person's life, but how about some wiggle room?  Yes, the "policy" is a two-day turnaround, but how about a fucking favor for a new homeowner who can't take a fucking shower or flush his piss-filled toilet?  How about a phone call or a letter or a knock on my fucking door to tell me you're gonna take away my electricity?  How about an email or a text message to let me know my vacation day was essentially useless and you can't even come up with a reasonable explanation for why you couldn't deliver a $2000 tractor to a waiting customer.  I realize it's not "standard operating procedure", but could you maybe try to act like a human being? #business

Surprised by ignorance Wed, Jul 15, 2015
I'm surprised by people who are surprised by ignorance.  Ignorance, i.e. not knowing something, is pretty common.  Everybody's ignorant about something, and a lot of people are ignorant about a lot of things.  Not everybody knows physics, or philosophy, or philology.  Our society kind of expects everyone to have a certain level of basic knowledge, i.e. you live on planet Earth, which orbits the sun, which is a star, etc.  But most things other than that are simply specialization. 

My coworker is constantly surprised by my lack of knowledge about things that have nothing to do with our job.  Whenever it comes up, it follows the same pattern: 
Me:  I didn't know that.
Her:  How could you not know that?
Me:  I just don't know it.
Her:  But didn't you learn it at some point?
Me:  If I did, I forgot it, because I don't remember everything I've ever learned.
I posted a comment online earlier about some knowledge I had gained regarding a video game.  Some people responded with "Thanks" or "I didn't know that".  But one guy responded with, "Everybody knows that.  How could you not know that?"  Wasn't there ever a time in this guy's life when he didn't know something?  Or was he, like my coworker, simply born with perfect knowledge of everything?  Omniscience isn't a real thing, you know. 

I guess I find it incredibly self-centered that a person can't possibly imagine a scenario in which another human lifeform doesn't have the exact same level of knowledge in the exact same arrangement at the exact moment in time as them.  Come to think of it, what I'm talking about is theory of mind, which is something that usually develops in early childhood.  Maybe the people I'm dealing with are damaged. #psychology

How not to get killed by police Mon, Jul 13, 2015
It's a bad thing when a cop kills somebody.  Let's establish that up front.  Murder is bad, whether it's justified or not.  That said, I feel like there are a few simple rules people should follow to lessen their chances of accidentally or intentionally being killed by police: 
  1. Don't play with things that look like real guns.  Whether it's a toy gun or a cell phone case that looks like a gun, you probably shouldn't pretend to carry a weapon, and you shouldn't brandish that weapon near or at a cop.
  2. Don't act aggressive near or towards a cop.  Cops are like grizzly bears.  Strong and powerful, but generally harmless unless provoked.
  3. Don't resist arrest.  You won't win.  Yes you might be treated unfairly or racially profiled, and that's not cool.  But when you fight back, you get killed.  When you run away, you get killed.
  4. Stop doing illegal things.  I agree, laws are stupid.  Certain things shouldn't be illegal.  But when you make the decision to engage in a little civil disobedience, however righteous your intentions,  you're still breaking the written law of the land, and you'll likely face the consequences of your actions.  Death isn't necessarily a consequence, but your chances of getting killed are greatly reduced if you simply don't break the law.

Unequal justice Wed, Apr 29, 2015
In recent legal news, the guy who shot up a Colorado movie theater pled not guilty by reason of insanity, and the guy who bombed the Boston Marathon was just convicted. 

I'd like to put forth a likely controversial and possibly offensive position:  I don't think all people deserve equal justice.  I think in certain legal cases, when the evidence is overwhelming and the verdict is clear, the offender shouldn't be sent to jail or to a psychiatric facility.  They shouldn't have an opportunity to better themselves or improve their mental health.  They shouldn't have the possibility of gaining parole or freedom. 

I think they should be publicly executed.  I realize this is a ridiculously violent and archaic means of punishment.  And I understand that there's the question of whether the death penalty is even effective at preventing crime.  And I know that killing one person doesn't bring any kind of justice or comfort to the families of the victims these people killed. 

For me, it's partly a practical concern.  Prisons are expensive, and they're crowded.  Why should I spend my tax money housing and nurturing a person who decided to break the law by killing a bunch of people? 

But it's also value-based.  I believe in psychology.  I understand that a mental disorder can make a person do terrible things.  But I think the scope of those terrible things, specifically multiple murders, should make a person ineligible for a second chance.  In other words, I literally don't think the life of a mass murderer is worth saving.  I'm intentionally placing a value on the life of mass murderers, and I'm saying that value is less than that of normal people.  This makes me a judgmental monster, I know, but hey at least I haven't killed anyone.

Science is a method Thu, Mar 26, 2015
Science is really a method, or a way to do things, instead of being a thing.  I find it odd when people say they're "interested in science" or "studying science."  Which science?  Biological science?  Chemical science?  Physical science?  Science is the method that's proven successful at figuring stuff out about the natural world.  There might've been a better way before science came around, and there might be an even better method in the future.  But for now, it's what works.  And the cool thing is that it can work for anyone.  It helps if you're careful and thorough, but the same science used by Person A in Place M at Time X can be used by Person B in Place N at Time Y.  It doesn't require secret knowledge, or large sums of money, or powerful authority.  It's the everyman method of learning things. 

Most people approach situations somewhat scientifically, I would argue, by default.  In problem solving, people often employ the trial-and-error approach, which is really just a subset of the scientific method.  The things that are "tried" are usually based on some educated guess for what will hopefully actually work.  The result is either a failure or a success, leading to an unstated conclusion about the result of the experiment.  Anybody can do that.  That's science. #science

Laconism Thu, Mar 26, 2015
I didn't realize I was a fan of laconism
A laconic phrase or laconism is a concise or terse statement, especially a blunt and elliptical reply.

It is named after Laconia, the region of Greece including the city of Sparta, whose inhabitants had a reputation for verbal austerity and were famous for their blunt and often pithy remarks.
NFL coach Bill Belichick's take on a recent rule change is along the same lines:  "Whatever the rule is, it is."  But that might instead be a tautology, or a truism, or a platitude.  They're all sort of related. #language

Trusting experts Mon, Mar 23, 2015
At some point in the last few years, I realized I'm an expert at my job.  I'm not an expert because I know the most or because I'm the best at what I do.  I'm an expert simply as a result of doing my specific, complex job for about ten years.  If someone showed up at my job and told me how to do it or questioned why I did it a certain way (which has happened), I would calmly but confidently explain to them why I'm right and they're wrong.  I'm not closed to new ideas, but there are certain aspects of my job that are simply settled matters of math and physics.  That stuff isn't changing. 

Around the time I realized I was an expert, I realized that other people are also experts in their respective fields.  Specifically scientists.  I used to want to question the methods used by evolutionary scientists or the conclusions drawn by climate scientists.  But then I realized that my questioning of their basic methods of research is equivalent to someone questioning the math and physics of my core job duties.  Feel free to question in a friendly inquisitive manner, but be prepared to eat your words and feel like an idiot.  If you can even grasp the entirety of what I actually do (which isn't that complex but takes some getting used to), I can almost guarantee that you won't present an idea that hasn't already been presented, dissected, and rejected. 

That's why it bothers me when non-experts question experts about things like evolution, climate change, and immunization.  The internet has made everyone quasi-experts about everything.  But when 99.85% of experts agree on evolution, or when 97.2% of experts agree on climate change, or when 86% of experts agree on vaccines, I think it's time to recognize who the real experts are.  Hint:  It's probably not you. #science

Robot religion Wed, Mar 11, 2015
Assuming we humans eventually figure out how to create a machine that achieves some sort of consciousness, I think it's time we start worrying about the inevitability of a massive series of wars fought between competing sects of robot religions.  There are a few assumptions involved, but I don't think they're outlandish: 
  1. We'll probably create a Terminator-like robot that can teach itself.
  2. If it learns from us, it'll learn what we learned:  Racism, bigotry, homophobia, sexism, and religion.
  3. This will happen more than once.
  4. Different religions don't get along, therefore war.
The singularity is expected to happen sometime in the next 50-100 years, so expect a robot savior in about 150 years, a confusing and mistranslated series of robot religious texts in 500 years, and a robot religious war for the next several thousand years.  Enjoy! #religion

Telework fiasco Fri, Mar 06, 2015
I'd like to record a story from work for the sake of posterity. 

My job offers the option of teleworking, i.e. working from home, 2-4 days per month.  If your role is suitable for teleworking and you can be trusted to work alone without supervision, you can sit around in your sweatpants on your couch while doing official work.  I made the cut.  It's a good gig. 

But there's one caveat:  If the workplace is closed due to weather, normal workers are dismissed with pay, while teleworkers are expected to telework.  So in other words, teleworkers are expected to work while everyone else is getting paid to not work.  It's unfair, but it's the rule.  The original idea was to have the entire workforce telework so that normal business could continue even during a weather emergency.  That didn't work out, but we're left with some of the remnants of a good idea.  So whenever a snow storm is headed our way, the bosses remind all the teleworkers to bring home their laptops and whatnot in case the office is closed. 

A few weeks ago I left work early on a Thursday afternoon.  I had off on Friday.  I didn't bring my laptop or notepad home (i.e. teleworking materials) because I planned to return to work on Monday like normal.  I didn't check the weather report for Monday because it was four days away and the weather forecasters had just predicted a major snowpocalypse that didn't end up happening.  Fast forward to Monday, and the office is closed due to weather.  I didn't have my telework equipment at home with me, so I didn't do anything that day and used the administrative leave that was offered to all the non-teleworkers. 

Later that week I was approached by my boss who said that since I was a teleworker, I should've been prepared to telework four days in advance over a long weekend.  And since I didn't telework, I would be charged vacation time, because that's essentially what it was.  I presented my side of the story, which I felt was completely reasonable, and I hoped he would see my side of things and grant me an exemption.  He was reluctant, so I pointed out that whether I teleworked or used administrative leave, it would've cost the organization the exact same amount of money, and there was really no benefit to punishing me for an accidental oversight. 

His reply was the following, paraphrased:  There are rules.  I (the boss) must follow these rules.  If I don't follow these rules, I'll hear about it from my boss, and he'll hear about it from his boss, etc.  Request denied. 

I asked him what the actual consequences would be for him if he stood up for me.  We work for a pretty lenient organization, so there's almost no way for people to get fired.  His reply was that it could affect his annual performance review, which might affect his potential annual bonus.  I confirmed with a coworker later that bonuses top out at around $2500, which is not nothing, but also not life-changing. 

In the end, my request for a one time exemption from the rule was denied.  My immediate supervisor (under my boss) said he would've gone to bat for me if he was in charge, and that in the future it's often easier to lie about things like this.  He didn't technically say that, but I completed his sentences for him, and he gave me a wink-wink nudge-nudge. 

I was under the impression that bosses are there to look out for their employees, to advocate for them.  What I experienced was a completely robotic, selfish interpretation of outdated, arbitrary rules.  I almost can't fault my boss because I would've probably done the same thing if I were in his position.  But that's why I'm not in his position.  I'm not a people person; I'm a worker.  If I could transform myself into a boss, I'd rather treat my employees like responsible though flawed adults, instead of lying cheating children.  People tend to act the way you treat them, so expect lying and cheating from me in the future. #business

Changing one's mind Tue, Mar 03, 2015
I feel like changing one's mind about something is unfairly looked down upon.  Obviously I'm a little biased because I've changed my mind about some pretty big things in the recent past.  Oddly enough, I used to feel the opposite about this particular topic of changing one's mind, but then I changed my mind. 

I remember a past presidential election when one candidate was criticized for being a flip-flopper, i.e. he changed his mind about something, perhaps more than once.  I think it's essential for a politician to change his/her mind about issues, both as a result of new information and also to accommodate the changing views of their constituents.  If you're an elected official representing the views of the people, your views should change to match those of the people, not the other way around. 

And this presupposes that people's views change, which they do.  And they should.  If views didn't change, we'd still be burning witches and lynching black people.  If people didn't change, they'd be the same person as a 20-year-old that they were as a 5-year-old.  Or a 40-year-old via a 20-year-old. 

The only thing that doesn't change is change.  It's ok to change your mind. #psychology

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