Monday, April 25, 2011

Simple Gestures MEAN A LOT!!!

(After my not so nice things to say about HP Support, I thought I'd quickly give a much more positive thought, so my complaining doesn't show up at the top of my blog for long.)

Easter was fun!  We took the kids to the city rec. complex where they had 4 baseball diamonds full of "hidden" Easter eggs for the kids to go and "find".  (I used quotes since the eggs seemed to be tossed loosely out in the grass of the outfield--even so, it was a fun event for the kids.)  The goal was for each kid to find an egg with a number on it.  If you get a numbered egg, you were entitled to redeem it for an Easter basket full of goodies.  Preparation (despite the "hiding" job) had to have taken hours of several people's time.  All the eggs that didn't have numbers were neatly stuffed with candy.  The gathering of the eggs took SECONDS!

The amazing part of the event was that from community business donations and the serviceable effort of the local chapter of the Lions Club, there were over 600 Easter baskets available for the children.  The Lions Club passed them out individually to each kid that brought up a numbered egg.  They also limited baskets to one per kid--so those who collected multiple numbered eggs passed them along to those who were not so fortunate.

My son and daughter--although they each collected multiple eggs--didn't receive a numbered egg.

But after waiting in the "losers line" for what seemed like an eternity (probably 7 minutes or so;) they finally received one of the numbered eggs that had been passed along, and got a basket.

All's well that ends well.

The neat part to me (in addition to the heart warming appreciation I had for this little community [total population maybe 3,000] who so generously donated SIX HUNDRED Easter Baskets full of REALLY good candy--like 4.5oz solid Dove chocolate bunnies and boutique quality chocolate covered mint candies, etc--as well as the time necessary to execute the event, a professional D.J. who acted as M.C.--also time/equipment donated, etc. etc. etc.) . . . In addition to all that, the really cool thing to me was that, on our way to our car, FIVE different people checked with our family to make sure EACH of our children had received a basket--and offered to give them the one THEY had received if we hadn't.  These people weren't part of the volunteers working at the event; they weren't friends or even people we knew.  They were just concerned neighbors at a community event who wanted to make sure my children had a positive experience.

It's funny how meaningful that whole experience was for me.  I don't think I appreciate often enough the things people do on my behalf.

It's also fun to give.  We've been dealing with flooding in our neighborhood.

I got a call the other night asking if I would be willing to go help fill and place sandbags in order to try and save some homes.  I started out in the fairgrounds filling bags.  After filling only 20 or 30 bags, the operation director indicated that there were new breaches in the river banks by the homes behind the Field Street church and he needed a few volunteers to go there to help save the homes.  I went with 4 of my close neighbors (and several more that I didn't know) to see what we could do.  Upon arriving, I met up with Dan Dixon--a man who has been a bit of a mentor and role model of mine for some years--working in the sloppy mess of the flooding river.  Despite the urgency of the moment, he smiled warmly to greet me.  Since he had moved out of my immediate neighborhood some time ago, it had been a while since I had seen him and he asked about my family, work, and life in general as we worked to build sand bag walls to plug the breach.

After several hours of working, I went home very wet, very dirty, and very cold.  But I went home happy and grateful for  1.  the opportunity to help,  2.  the success we had (the home didn't flood that night),  3.  a community where people care about their neighbors--even when they don't know them personally.  I was truly moved by the literally hundreds of "Dan Dixons" I got to work with that night who were willing to work hard to preserve the interests of community members.  (OK, so the "hundreds" is literal; the "Dan Dixons" is metaphorical--they weren't literally all Dan Dixon.  As cool as he is, that would be a little Twilight-Zone-esque.)

Certainly saving homes is more important than helping my kids pass the "boring parts" of church a little more easily.  Yet, I was touched almost as deeply as my observation of the flood volunteers when a kind older gentleman sitting on the pew behind us overheard a conversation I had with my 4-year-old son.  "Dad, can I have a pen?" he asked, while holding the little scratch pad he had worked hard to find in his mother's bag.  "I'm sorry, I gave my pen to Britt, (his 7-year-old sister)" I told him--sorry that I couldn't oblige.  As the boy looked down disappointed, I felt a tap on my shoulder as the older man behind us pushed a pen into my hand saying, "I've been there before" with a smile on his face.  My son was saved from the remaining 35 minutes he would have had to bear of brother Mulman's sermon.  ;)  What a simple thing.  What a simple, small little thing this man offered.  Yet, he offered it.  He saw a need and he helped!

One final "simple gesture" I observed this week was a letter my wife received from a woman we know from church.  She's one generation ahead of us, and while we see her at church and appreciate her sweet nature, we don't really have any particular ties to her--except that she has a son who, 20 years ago, needed the same surgery our 11-month-old daughter will be having on May 5th to repair the hole in her heart that is creating her congestive heart failure.  This kind woman took the time to write a 4-page hand-written letter with some thoughts of comfort for our family.  She's not family.  She doesn't have any specific 'church assignment' to look after us.  We don't really even talk much.  Yet, she took the time to reach out to us. . . to put her proverbial arms around our family to say, "I know what you're going through, and I care!"  What a simple, simple little gesture it was--yet, how meaningful to my wife and me!  Even now, I can't think of this kindness without tears of gratitude streaming down my face.

Here's my wife's account:

It's simple thoughtfulness like this--the donation of time and resources to entertain children, neighbors working urgently to save the property of other members of the community as if it were their own, sharing knowledge, wisdom, and experience that will lighten the burden of someone in need. . .  It is really the simple gestures that build men and women. . .   that make others sincerely want to give more, be more, and DO more good with their lives!  At least that's what it has done for me.

Calling HP Support: Hope you have AT LEAST an hour.

I bought one of the cool HP Mini Netbooks when they were brand new (I think it was early 2009).  I loved it.  Unfortunately, mine was one of the early models w/ an underpowered power supply for the bulky (and slow) hard drive they put in it.  The hard drive crashed about 13 days after the 90-day store warrantee expired; so I was left to deal with HP's support line.  After a long time (not kidding 3 or 4 hours), they determined they had to see my computer to see if they could fix it.  So I shipped it to them and waited.  . . .and waited and waited and waited.

After 3 weeks of waiting I called.  The exact hard drive my computer originally had in it was back ordered, so they were waiting for it.  I waited another couple weeks, and called again.  Still back ordered.  I put 2 and 2 together (duh), and realized the thing was back ordered cuz HP had discontinued using it--probably because it was faulty for everyone who had it. . .

Anyway . . . Very long story (a little) shorter, I spent more than 6 hours on the phone w/ HP support (NOT an exageration), and didn't get anything resolved.  After a few days of calling HP and yelling at various supervisors (about how I had bought the stinking computer and had been able to use it for a couple months, and now I didn't have the thing for what was then going on two months. . . yadda yadda), they finally said--why don't we send you a replacement computer.

So they did.  The new computer had a new/better hard drive in it, and everything seemed to be resolved.  Thanks HP (despite how long it takes to talk to you about support issues--which is the real complaint here).

Well, some time later I overloaded the software capacity (of the my replacement HP Mini), downloaded a virus, and found it necessary to restore the factory settings of the computer.  (Note to self:  NEXT TIME YOU BUY A NETBOOK, USE THE RECOVERY PARTITION IT COMES INSTALLED WITH--despite the fact that you didn't realize it was there--AND CREATE A RECOVERY CD BEFORE DOING ANYTHING ELSE.)  Unfortunately, by the time I got to the 'restore factor settings' step of my trouble shooting the virus problem, the recovery partition was already corrupted, and I had to use an external recovery process.  I wiped the hard drive, and used the recovery CD from my original HP Mini netbook (that I had returned), and restored the operating system.

(man, I'm not making my "long story short" a very short story, am I.  Sorry.  ;)

The problem is the recovery CD for the original HP Mini netbook didn't completely match up with the chip set and components of my replacement netbook.  So now--since the system re-install--I'm missing some drivers and key features from my computer.  (For example, my system restore feature doesn't work, my system standby mode doesn't work, I can't get the right driver [no matter how many I try from] for my ethernet port, etc.)  I've been limping along without these features for some time, but I finally got sick of it today and decided I would call HP to order the ACTUAL recovery CD for this netbook.

Pretty simple conversation, right:  "Hi.  I'm Blaine.  I have a HP Mini NetBook and I want to order the system recovery CD for the exact serial number/product number computer that I have."  WRONG!

"Tell me again why you can't get the right drivers.  Why can't you download them from our website?  Why didn't you use the recovery partition?  How many times have you tried restoring it? etc. etc. etc."

LOTS of questions and talking to another supervisor (after LOTS of hold time) and repeating the LOTS of questions later . . . (literally about an HOUR after I started the call) I'm finally told "I'd be happy to send you the recover CD.  That will be $15.93 for GROUND shipping."  Really?  $15.93 for SHIPPING. . . A CD?!?!?!?

I started into a line of questioning that would have wound up with something like:  Do you KNOW how much shipping CD's costs for EVERYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD?  (For those who don't know, it's about $0.42.  42¢!!!)  But I refrained--and politely paid the scammer that is HP Support.  (I was at his mercy on getting what I needed.  Good for HP for taking advantage of their stadium pricing ability in such cases as mine.)

But the price for shipping a recovery CD is not the issue.  (Although, I would have much appreciated if they would have told me that I was actually buying a CD for my $15.93--not ground shipping.)  The rant is that I knew exactly what I wanted from them, I succinctly articulated the need, and I still couldn't get off the line with HP Support in any less than AN HOUR!  I'm annoyed AGAIN by HP Support.

Sorry to "drag you down to my personal hell" as my brother sometimes puts it when I complain.  My advice to anyone wondering about HP Mini Netbooks:  Get an I-Pad!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

The Wolves Within Us

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside all people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two 'wolves' inside us all.

“One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

“The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”