Exotic fruit

“Mom, are there any fruits I haven’t heard of?” Conner asked.

“I’m sure there are,” she said.

“Yeah,” Cody said, “Like Fruity Pebbles.”

30 Minutes

What’s the one thing you could do this year that would change your life?

What would that goal look like if you spent 30 minutes a day on it?

Just 30 minutes. Over the course of a year that adds up to over seven and a half days. Over a week of completely uninterrupted work. 182.5 hours. That’s a lot of production when focused on one thing.

For me, it’s writing. What is it for you?

Burning the New Year’s resolutions list

Every January 1st: “This is the year. I’m losing weight.”

Every February 1st: “Well crap.”

I’ve learned not to do New Year’s resolutions. Usually when they are drafted, I’m filled with so much hope. I’m generally coming off a few days rest between Christmas and New Year’s day. I’m optimistic the next year will be different.

I fail to ask why it will be different. It won’t be different on its own. You see, and this may come as a bit of a shock, there is nothing magical about January. Nothing.

That’s why New Year’s resolutions never work. We don’t take steps ahead of time and plan to do the things required to be different. 2011 was very different for me because I had a plan well before January 1st. This year is the same. I have some lofty goals for 2012. I started working on those goals months ago.

Am I going to lose weight this year? Yes.

Am I going to make more money this year? Yes.

Am I going to spend more time with my family this year? Yes.

But only because these are more than just goals. These are fully realized plans I’ve been working on for a while. I figure if you aren’t several steps down the road to completing your plan by January 1st, it probably won’t be any different by December 31st.

But maybe that’s just me. Maybe everyone else always achieves their New Year’s resolutions…

2011

This has been a year for which I’m very grateful. It saw us hit a turning point in my business that will, I pray, drive it for the next decade. It had its ups and downs as with all years, but the ups where higher than ever and the downs really weren’t that low.

We were really blessed in 2011. I’m thankful for that and hope 2012 will be just as much fun.

My prayer for you is that however 2011 went, the next year will be even better.

The moments between moments

I’m sitting in the doctor’s office right now. Around the room, a dozen people are quietly waiting.

Waiting and tapping.

Everyone is silently tapping away on a phone. Reading. Sending email. Hurling ill-tempered birds to their death. I’m even writing this on my phone.

What did we ever do before our brains could be constantly engaged? What did we do in those moments between moments? Waiting in the doctor’s office. Waiting on food to arrive. What happened back when our brains were forced to just relax for a moment or focus on something other than this glowing thing in our hands?

I wonder about the effect these things have on our brain because much of what I do comes from some deep recess of my mind, and it’s kind of mysterious. I’d hate to do anything that would mess with that. Creativity is not math. It is not this quantifiable thing that is easy to understand on paper. People present me with problems and I design solutions. Most of the solutions come to me at odd times in odd places. Usually it’s not while I’m sitting and thinking about the problem.

How many things am I missing by not letting my brain just rest and disengage in those moments between moments? Could my phone, this vaunted scion of productivity, actually be hurting my creative output?

The rumor going around

“Mom, there’s a rumor going around school about Santa Clause,” Conner said.

“What rumor?”

“The rumor is that parents buy all the presents and put them out. Santa is just a homeless man parents hire to come in and eat the cookies on Christmas night. Is that true?”

Rage against the machine

Sometimes there are large corporations we have to deal with and sometimes they screw up, give terrible customer service and are accountable to no one. What do we do then? Complain on blogs, I guess. Let me give you a broad picture of what it’s like to deal with the Adobe Corporation.

Two weeks ago I upgraded from Creative Suite 3 to Creative Suite 5.5. That was an $840 upgrade. I ordered the boxed version. Unfortunately when you order that, you don’t get the serial numbers until they arrive. Of course, my 30-day trial of the new software had just expired that day. So basically I would be without the main software I use for a few days. That’s not possible with our schedule right now.

So I call Adobe customer support, conveniently located in another country, and asked if I could cancel that order and just order the download version to get the serial number immediately.

“Of course,” the guy says, “The old order is canceled, was not charged to your account and now you may order the new one.”

So I order the download copy. Fast forward a day later and I get an email to let me know my boxed copy had shipped. I check my account and sure enough I have been charged $840 twice. I’m not sure about you, but that’s a little more than inconvenient for me.

I call Adobe support again, also, still conveniently located in another country.

“Sorry, sir, I canceled it in one of our systems, but not both, so it went through anyway.”

“Obviously,” I say, trying to keep my irritation under control, “But, I’d like my money back now.”

“Sorry, sir, you have to wait until you get the boxed copy, call us back with the serial number so we can cancel it, then wait 3-5 days.”

“That’s unacceptable,” I say, “I need the money back now. You guys screwed up and I shouldn’t have to pay for it.”

“I can upgrade this to a Tier 2 support status and you’ll get a call from a Tier 2 representative. They might be able to help.”

“Fine.”

Fast forward a few hours. The phone rings. “Hello, sir. This call is to let you know your case has been escalated to a Tier 2 level and you will receive a call tomorrow morning from a representative.”

“Seriously?” I ask.

“Yes, sir.”

“Fine.”

Fast forward to the next morning. No call.

Fast forward to the next afternoon. The box arrives. I call with the serial number.

“Thanks for the call, sir. Your refund will now be expedited in 3 to 5 days.”

I wait 7 business days. Still no refund. I call back today.

“Sorry sir, we forgot to generate a something something report. We’re doing that now and you will get your refund in 3 to 5 days.”

“Since you guys screwed up again, I’d like it faster. Let me speak with your boss.”

Fast forward another 20 minutes.

“Hi, I’m a supervisor.”

“Hi, I’d like my refund faster than 3 to 5 days.”

“3 to 5 days? We can only do 5 to 7 days.”

“Wait, what? But the last guy said 3 to 5 days.”

“Did he give you a 100% guarantee?”

“What the hell is wrong with your company?”

“Nothing, sir, I assure you.”

“Must just be the people then.”

So I sit on hold for hours now through this process. My blood pressure is through the roof every time I speak with them. I don’t normally cuss or yell. I’ve cussed and yelled. And I still don’t have my $840.

I guess we will see if it ever happens.

UPDATE: This was e-mailed to me letting me know they had closed my case (for the third time): “Your credit card will be refunded within ten business days. Your issuing bank often requires an additional two to three weeks to apply the credit to your account.”

Really?

Just kind of in the middle

Cody plopped down on the couch with his usual buzzing energy. “You know what I know, Dad?”

“What?” I asked.

“You and Mom are the best parents.”

“That’s sweet. Thank you.”

“Yeah,” he continued, “You get us the best birthday presents….and Christmas presents.”

“Oh,” I said, “So if we didn’t get you any of those presents would we still be the best parents?”

He gave me a look like I was talking crazy, then he pondered it for a moment. “Well,” he said finally, “If that happened, you’d be just kind of in the middle.”

Quality parenting can, apparently, be purchased.

Worst case scenario

“What time do we have to leave in the morning?” Becca asked.

“Seven would make me happy,” I said, “But eight at the absolute latest. Worst case scenario, we have to leave by eight. If one of the kids spontaneously bursts into flames and the other two are running around naked, we still leave by eight.”

“Flames, huh?”

“Flames. Eight ‘o clock.”

“Okay.”

If you say so

While shopping with my wife at Sam Moon (or as I like to call it, the fifth circle of Hell) it became really irritating to see all the packages of cheap jewelry that said “best quality.”

This reminds me of all the businesses in the world that brag about being the best quality. Only about 10% of those really are best quality. The other 90% are either ignorant or just plain lying about it.

You shouldn’t have to say you’re the best quality. It should just be obvious to everyone who ever deals with you.

To upgrade or not to upgrade

We have an iPad but not an iPad 2. Do you recommend upgrading or do the new features not justify the cost? — Sarah

For me, the answer is no.* We own an original iPad. I’ve been contemplating getting another for my own personal use. Ours is for the family, which means every time I pick it up, I find jelly or some such on it. I’d really rather have my own. That being said, I’m holding out for an iPad 3.

I’ve spent time with the iPad 2 and it’s a very impressive device. Much lighter than the original, and noticeably snappier. Unfortunately other than that, there wasn’t much that I’d place in the “have to have” category if we’re talking upgrade. I’m sure FaceTime is nice, but I have it on my phone and have used it maybe twice.

Now, if you don’t have a tablet at all, of course, go iPad 2. As far as an upgrade though, it just wasn’t compelling enough for me.

*I guess it also depends on what kind of person you are when it comes to technology. You wouldn’t know it by the amount of Apple techno-crap I own, but I’m not usually the “gotta-have-it-on-launch-day guy.” I usually buy the most expensive computer I can and then use it for four or five years. I never upgrade software if I don’t have to. I get a new iPhone every couple of years, but usually don’t feel the itch to upgrade yearly. Overall, I’d say I’m very patient when it comes to buying new technology. Some people aren’t like that, so factor your personality into your upgrade decision.