Sunday, September 30, 2007

Panda Express: "You're Lying, but, um, like, whatever."

So, probably wife's single-most favorite restaurant in the world is Panda Express. When we decided to move to the area, that was the biggest drawback -- their website didn't list any in the immediate vicinity. Turns out their website was outdated, there's one about 15 minutes from here. And then they built another one not too far from that, but we don't like that one because everyone who eats there gets sick. But we've never heard of anyone getting sick at the one we go to. (We tried the other one, didn't get sick, but the food wasn't as good. Since it was brand new, we even tried more than once.) Anyhow, this is a story about the "good" Panda Express on 320th. and Pacific Highway in Federal Way.

Tonight we ordered two Panda Parties or whatever they're called. $25 each. Five items -- three entrees and two sides. When I got there, they had everything ready and warming. They've got a bag all ready with chopsticks, soy sauce and fortune cookies for ten. They've got a second bag waiting with a cut down cardboard container in the bottom to stack the cartons on -- a nice touch, I thought. They were in such a hurry to get me out the door, that they weren't even going to charge me. So I figured my wife had paid by credit card when she made the order but someone stopped me and had me pay.

So I get home and unload 10 cartons. So my wife's looking throught order and there's an extra steamed rice and one orange chicken missing. So I call the store (conveniently, the receipt says 9999999999 instead of the phone number) and they offer me that I can come in and pick it up. I don't want to make the drive, I've got a bunch of family arriving and wonder what another option would be. I didn't have one in mind but wondered what they might propose. They ask if it's ok for the manager to call me back, reciting the phone number from the order. Again, a nice touch.

The manager calls me back, starts telling me that she threw in an extra steamed rice. And that she counted them all and all 10 containers were there. I clarified... the steamed rice was extra? Yes. So shouldn't that be 11 containers? Yes, she said, she counted them all. I watched two people pack the bag, no one counted the containers. Not believing her, I did recall that the container tipped over in the car and so I'd go check the car. I prayed with everyone, and then went out to the car. Nope, no 11th. container. Mysterious!

After dinner, my wife calls back. Finally the manager decides it's ok for my wife to stop by the store tomorrow for an orange chicken entry, but the manager is still sure she packed the order correctly.

So now, instead of it just looking like a mistake somewhere, the manager, attempting to save face, is basically telling us that we're liars. What could have been an apology and offer to rectify without any accusations now suggests the customer is in the wrong.

So we'll get our free entree tomorrow, and then we'll immediately fill out the survey and detail the situation directly to corporate headquarters. (Not to mention the three people who might think a little more negatively about Panda Express after reading this post.)

The manager is empowered to make things right. They failed. Maybe they don't care, maybe they know that it won't hurt them personally (though we hope they get called on it). Maybe they know it we don't have any other choice for American fast food in the theme of Chinese and so we'll continue to shop there.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Funny Thing Didn't Happen on the Way To Nowhere

As a result of yesterday, some stuff has already happened. Some of it couldn't have happened to a nicer person, some of it shouldn't have happened to someone so nice and other things just went in a direction I could not have predicted. It's like saying "your choices are north, south, east or west" and they went frarglth. I thought after my work yesterday, that I had a shot at more. Instead, I lost. I lost something I didn't care for that was on top of my normal work and unpaid, but it was a loss none-the-less. It wasn't so much a loss as an un-re-org sooner than anyone expected, but for some reason it really bugs me. If I really thing about it, I think that ultimately I was finally shown a glimpse inside the black box and I see what the potential is, but how it's going to be screwed up. It's my vanity again, believing that I have the answers no one else has. Maybe I do, maybe I don't, but I know they don't. I've seen enough to know, I've seen how all the previous black boxes were constructed. Good enough, but not great. Perhaps this is why I'm so discouraged, in such a funk tonight.

Update - I've decided to do something about it. An email has been dispatched.

Friday, September 28, 2007

At the end of the day...

Wow, what a rough week, what a bad day. I wonder, tonight, if I'm more liked /appreciated by my coworkers tonight than I was at the beginning of the day or just the opposite. It's not a popularity contest, but sometimes you gotta wonder what people think of you after a day like that. I think I did good. There were periods of not good and I did get yelled at by my boss' boss for using my blackberry during a meeting. But if she had asked me, I could have told her the last five things she had said. I believe I can actually concentrate better while I multitask. Otherwise, I will drift off and tune out entirely. But this isn't about that. This is about disorganization, a lack of focus and jury duty all over again. I've only been on jury duty once. But when I announced that I was going to be the foreman and we were going to get down to business, at least one other person, 10 years older than me, announced "I knew you were going to do it." That's right. I wanted to cut to the chase. Same thing happened today. Unfortunately, it should have happened 7 hours sooner. The day, for some of us, ended up being 13-1/2 hours. What was telling at the end was who was still there, as much as who wasn't. Or maybe it was more telling who wasn't there. I know I'm rambling, but I'm trying to decompress without actually complaining about any person or say anything inappropriate about my workplace. Most days, I can't wait to get back. I feel like I'm able to do good work, in a very positive and healthy environment, that I'm valued and that I bring good stuff to the organization. And I think I did that again today, but I can't help wonder if everything wasn't all rosy in the end. At least I don't feel good right now. I feel like holing up and hiding offline all weekend avoiding the phone and email so that I can get some good distance between me and the rest of the world, hoping all will be forgiven/forgotten when we go back on Tuesday.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Breaking Dawn

I woke up earlier than usual this morning. But, as usual, once up, going back to sleep, proved impossible. For once, it's meant I've been able to be a little more leisurely in getting ready for the day, which as been nice. It's still a little dark outside and everything is covered with dew or rain so it all looks clearer and a little shinier. I realized I've been struggling a little bit at work lately. I haven't yet completely recovered from taking a week off. I'd say I'm down to about 15 semi-urgent emails now two weeks overdue, but I've cleared the rest in the past week and a half. Despite surface-checking my email while on vacation, I had over 400 in my inbox when I returned and received another 100 or so that first day back. And, non-stop meetings. On Tuesday when I came home from work, I had to excuse myself from dinner and go lay down in the bedroom for a few minutes because I was overwhelmed by the noise. On Wednesday when I came home from work, I could not stop pacing. I think it was because even lunch had been consumed yesterday with a lunch and learn. (They provide a nice lunch, trade off is you go to a presentation during your lunch break. Technically, they don't typically provide lunch. And I don't typically attend. There is a correlation there.)

I'm hoping that I can continue this peaceful feeling into my day. An absolute rarity, I only have 45 minutes of scheduled meetings today. I'll book the rest of the time as office hours to prevent same-day bookings. And I'll leave in a few minutes to give myself time to proceed to work without haste.

I think it'll be a good day. That's what I'm aiming for.

Monday, September 24, 2007

It is so stinking late...

*sigh* This is even later than I went to bed last night. And I have to get up earlier tomorrow than I did today.

ugh. I stayed up late finishing (ok, also starting) a presentation I have tomorrow for work. I'm pretty happy with it. I think it conveys what we do (and drops some hints about staffing needs) without getting bogged down or going on too long. I think the bullet points are quick and the whole thing shouldn't take any time at all. I should be able to present with minimal notes and it should be nice and quick. I just hope there's a projector around.

I tried to use the Google Powerpoint-type program and gave up pretty quickly. I'm sure someday, it'll be useful, but right now, it's difficult, cumbersome and far too basic. I can't think of any applications where it'd actually be useful to me.

Rach is also sick. Every so often I hear her crying in her sleep. Poor baby.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Free Speech

MSNBC.COM -- The president of The "Members Only Jacket" Fan Club and President of Iran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is scheduled to speak Monday at Columbia University in New York in a question & answer session.

There are a lot of people ticked off about this and demanding the school cancel the engagement. But I think that's ridiculous. Let him speak. And if he's willing to actually do Q&A, let him do that, too. (He even asked for permission to place a wreath at ground zero while he was in town but was turned down for "security concerns.")

He's been quoted as saying some pretty outrageous things, but so have many people who live in this country. I think his being allowed to speak celebrates our freedom of speech. The protests, too, celebrate that freedom. But if they prevailed, somehow their freedom of speech (and in some instances, opinion) then end up counting for more than his. (Or should his be less because he's not an American citizen? I could respect that opinion as well.)

By allowing him to speak, I think it speaks volumes to the world about our commitment to our ideals and our freedoms. Our ability to allow you to voice an opinion, even if it's different from our own -- even offensive. (Or in some cases, downright blatently and factually false.) I hope it will also serve as an example to other countries, a chance for us to do something "right" in the world's eyes for once.

The White House, which I've criticized regularly for its failure to be savvy in its marketing/public relations finally nailed it and I'm proud/impressed...
“This is a country where people can come and speak their minds,” said [a White House spokesman], adding, “It would be wonderful if some of the countries that take advantage of that here allowed it for their own citizens there.”

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Show Me the World

Google announced today that they added streets to a mess of new places (Afghanistan, Aruba, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belize, Bermuda, Brunei Darussalam, Bhutan, Bolivia, Cambodia, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Mexico, Myanmar (Burma), Mongolia, Nepal, Nicaragua, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Timor-Leste, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen) today.

I ended up jumping to Mexico City and then coasting south, arriving in Roatán, a beautiful island in the Honduras that Lori and I had a private day-long tour of a few years ago. To see it again, from such a different perspective made me think... (1) it would be fascinating to go back and (2) much of the world is probably far more spectacular than what you see as an average tourist and (3) I will miss out on much of that beauty.

It's not something I can get depressed over, but it's one of those "bummer realizations." I guess it also suggests that with the limited traveling I will be able to accomplish in my lifetime, that it will be far better to go someplace new than to try to go back somewhere I've been before.

I guess this is a good philosophy for when I want to go to the same place to eat that I've eaten at nearly every week forever.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Next Step in Mapping

Pure brilliance. Google, you paying attention? This is awesome. Yahoo's just released what they're calling "MapMixer" - finally those campus/park/event specific maps locked away on websites can be overlaid on top of a bigger map to show context. I did my college campus. My second attempt, adding my former church in Pasadena, failed. Twice. But the potential of this is very cool. I suspect some Google and Microsoft programmers are gonna be extra busy the next couple of days playing catchup. Nice job, Yahoo! (I still hate your name and therefore refuse to use any of your offerings, but serious kudos on a most excellent leap forward.)

If I had one suggestion, it would be to allow you to pull from an existing URL, instead of having to download the image and then upload it again to your service.

Buses to Issue Tickets

ENGADGET.COM -- This is a step closer to what I'm predicting. Sadly, I won't be able to get any money off of this deal, but a few years ago, I came up with an idea. I tried to get Lockheed or Microsoft or Google interested, but it never went anywhere. So I eventually sent it to MIT's Digital Cities project and we'll see where it goes from there.

Anyhow, it was a networked city... the vehicles (police cars, buses, city maintenance vehicles, etc.) would have cameras. Either via live transmission or by download when the vehicles returned "home," the video would be analyzed by computers. Things that stood out would be flagged for humans to view. Street lights that were out, newspaper stands that had been knocked over, car that appeared to be abandoned, etc. The reviewers could then dispatch the appropriate agency to investigate, ticket, tow, whatever.

As I see this stuff start to take shape, it sounds like it's starting to come to fruition. In some places, the network will come later, but in many cases, the human element may be left out of the first draft as they go after low hanging fruit - the obvious (and ticketable - revenue!) offenses.

Networked cameras seek out parking violators (UK), Camera-equipped buses could automatically ticket San Franciscans.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Late to the Party (Simpsons)

One of those things I've been meaning to get around to but never did. It exported as a PNG for some reason; we'll see how well that works with everyone's browsers.

do yourself at

Autobiography in Five Short Chapters (Nelson)

Someone read this in devotions the other morning. I thought it was pretty cool and profound.

by Portia Nelson


I walk down the street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk
I fall in.
I am lost ... I am helpless.
It isn't my fault.
It takes me forever to find a way out.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I pretend I don't see it.
I fall in again.
I can't believe I am in the same place
but, it isn't my fault.
It still takes a long time to get out.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I see it is there.
I still fall in ... it's a habit.
my eyes are open
I know where I am.
It is my fault.
I get out immediately.


I walk down the same street.
There is a deep hole in the sidewalk.
I walk around it.


I walk down another street.

Random Thought

I was just noticing that the acronym for "Significant Other" and "Superior Officer" are the same. You're probably thinking "SO?" and you're right.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Mexico Trucks to Enter US

MSNBC.COM -- I had to laugh at this article about teamsters protesting Mexican trucking companies being allowed to drive on US roads. Currently they're only allowed within 20 miles of the border, but soon they'll be allowed anywhere in the U.S., as part of NAFTA that already sees Canadian drivers on U.S. roads. The only reason I even mention this article is because I found it funny that the Teamsters organizer's name is Hugo Flores. Also against the plan was U.S. driver Oscar Nunez. Driver Carlos Moreno doesn't have a problem and CHP officer Hector Paredes said that the protest didn't affect border crossing. (Ok, full disclosure... Driver William Scribner also has a problem with the Mexican drivers. I'm betting someone will call him a racist.) All in all, it sounds like a fruitless protest. More...

Monday, September 03, 2007

Silent Night

It's almost 11. My goal was to be in bed by 11, but I'm not sure I'll make it. I'm laying on the bed, but not sure I'll be in bed. My knees are bent and the keyboard is resting on my stomach and my legs. Outside, thunder and loud, loud rain. I can also hear the murmurings of neighbors outside enjoying the rain. Rachel is also laying on the bed, head on my chest. She has, to some degree, been insufferable tonight. Demanding every few minutes to go to the bathroom. Of course, at this stage for her, every request must be honored. I finally decided this was the only way to get her to quiet down was to let her lie here on the bed next to me. She had made her way to where she was lying all the way across me but now she's rolled off and... nope, she's back again, now laying on my wrists making typing difficult. And she's gone again. At least she's quiet. The rain is just coming down like crazy. With large windows on two sides of this room, the sound is just incredible. And there's that smell... the fresh chilled smell of rain. It's just amazing. The thunder is rolling across the sky and Rachel whispers that "Daddy, thunder is like a bass, bass drum." Now, it's almost impossible to hear individual rain, it's just a solid white noise. Lightning! This was the first I'd seen. Rachel, with her eyes closed, even sensed it. They had predicted rain for later tonight, first 1 and then later revising to 3, but I guess it came early. When I was in the middle of the house, I saw the lights flickering and knew it was coming. I can't even hear the neighbors anymore. This is so cool. Time to turn off the computer and just enjoy the rain.