Sorry, Here’s A Billboard

In late November, I sent a support request to with a question about a couple of their products I own.1 Their site claims that they are committed to respond to every request within 24 hours. Instead, I waited four days with no response and then sent another request. Again, nothing, and I didn’t make another attempt.

Two weeks after that, I finally got a response. They apologized for failing to respond, were willing to help now, and offered to send me, as a sign of gratitude for my (assumed) patience and understanding, a complimentary “Ring Solar Sign”, which is a solar-powered version of those little alarm company signs you see on lawns as a deterrent to would-be burglars. Emphasis on “little”.

Now, I don’t want to seem ungrateful, but I don’t think the proper response to a customer service failure is to offer to send me something to stick on my lawn to advertise your service. I wasn’t looking for any handouts at all, just help with my problem, but am I wrong that this feels a little tone-deaf?

Anyway, not wanting to be a roadblock to getting my problem solved, I said, thanks, and then laid out my problem, saying I figured out one part, but still had trouble with the other. Their response said that the complimentary sign was on its way and we addressed my troubles.

Fast forward a couple of weeks to today when I received a package in the mail, containing the box you see above. I was curious that they would need such a large box for a little sign. So I opened it up and found this monstrosity.

That thing is almost a foot wide! And it will be lit up at night! I thought it was going to be a little sign and they send me a billboard. I suppose if I was living in some McMansion with a long driveway, you might need something that big to see it from the street, but I live in a little ranch with a postage—stamp driveway. That thing could keep my across-the-street neighbor awake at night.

So, thanks but no thanks, Ring. I think I’ll go stealth on my security and stick to the doorbells and video cameras.

  1. You can see my review here.

Babysitting 1.0

A new dad who happens to be a software engineer leaves hilariously detailed instructions for the babysitter of his newborn son:

“Hey, this is a quick primer on dealing with an infant. Hope it’s useful for you.

  • He gets a bottle every 2 hours (today, he started at 9:30a)
    • 3 oz, warmed to blood temperature in microwave in mug of water
      • In your Microwave, this proved to take about 30 sec
    • During feeding, Wiggle the nipple gently until you can tell he’s getting suction
    • The vent will be dry
    • You’ll see bubbles rising to the formula’s surface inside the bottle as air enters via the vent
  • In case of crying
    1. Is his diaper dirty?
      • Simple test is if the front feels swollen; if so, he’s peed at least.
      • Poop will have a distinct smell; carefully open the back and look for signs
        • He poops every other day, so it probably won’t be an issue
      • See [Skills/Changing a Diaper]”

And so on …

The Sorting Hat into Religious Orders

The Sorting Hat Chats • “The Basics”

This Harry Potter fan site puts forward a theory for what the four different houses of Hogwarts signify about the people in them and their motivations, which is interesting.

Gryffindor Primaries trust their moral intuitions and have a need and a drive to live by them. They feel what’s right in their gut, and that matters and guides them. If they don’t listen to and act on that, it feels immoral….

Ravenclaw Primaries have a constructed system that they test their decisions against before they feel comfortable calling something right….

Hufflepuff Primaries value people–all people. They value community, they bond to groups (rather than solely individuals), and they make their decisions off of who is in the most need and who is the most vulnerable and who they can help….

Slytherin Primaries are fiercely loyal to the people they care for most. Slytherin is the place where “you’ll make your real friends”– they prioritize individual loyalties and find their moral core in protecting and caring for the people they are closest to….

As Melanie and I were discussing this and whether it’s justified from the text, I speculated on which Catholic religious orders aligned with each house and it was a surprisingly quick decision:

  • Gryffindor is Carmelite
  • Ravenclaw is Dominican
  • Hufflepuff is Franciscan

And Slytherin? Oh, that’s easy: Slytherin is Jesuit.

Smith for a Day

Melanie’s discovered a blacksmith-for-a-day course at a smithy nearby, which sounds exciting. They have classes for 12 years old and up. Here’s how I imagine my first conversation there going.

Blacksmith: Welcome to the smithy. We have a variety of beginner projects you can-
Me: I want a sword.
Smith: Well, that’s a little advanced and a little more than-
Me: I want a sword.
Smith: How about we start with a nice S-hook?
Me: Is it sharpened?
Smith: Well, no-
Me: I want a sword.

I’ll end up with a wrought iron plant hanger.

Photo credit: Flickr user Derek Key, used under a Creative Commons license.

How I sacrificed an iPad for Lent, and God wouldn’t let me forget


I’d been anticipating the release of Apple’s iPad 2 for months, even before they’d officially announced it. I’d see the launch of the first iPad last year and I’d even got to use some that belonged to others briefly and I’d known immediately how such a device could contribute to both my work and personal lives. The iPad fills a gap between my iPhone and my MacBook Pro perfectly.

I’d been talking about the iPad with Melanie non-stop about the iPad since last year about what a great tool it is. I also started hinting that I thought we should get one. She agreed on the awesomeness of the iPad, but was concerned whether we could afford it. I’ve been working the numbers ever since and had been waiting to see what our tax refund looked like and as of late January I knew we could afford it. So we talked about it.

So, you have to understand something of the way Melanie and I converse. Melanie is the silent thinker. I speak, she listens and then says something back. I speak again and she doesn’t say much. I make a definitive statement, like “So, we should get it.” She doesn’t say anything. My mistake here is thinking that silence is assent. (And I will concede there may be some willful blindness on my part.)

Fast forward to March 11, the first Friday of Lent and the day Apple is launching the iPad 2. There is huge demand and lines for the product as people wait outside stores for the launch at 5pm. I couldn’t be there because I was working on our new radio program, The Good Catholic Life, but as soon as I was done, about 6pm, I went straight to the Apple Store across the street. Madness. A huge line and the Apple employee told me all they had left was a model I didn’t want. I headed straight for Best Buy, which was also selling them that day. Score! They had models in stock and only a few people were ahead of me.

As I was waiting in line, I got a text from Melanie: “Coming home soon?” I text back, “Soon. In line for iPad.” Her reply: “Seriously? I didn’t know we’d agreed on that.” I may not be the swiftest guy on the block, but I knew what that meant. I got out of line, got in my car and headed straight home.

After dinner and after the kids were in bed, we sat down and had a conversation. It was a calm and rationale discussion that ended with me agreeing that we should save the funds for something else. I was disappointed, sure, but I agreed. I’d been thinking for weeks by that point that I was getting an iPad and suddenly that wasn’t going to happen. But you suck it up and move on. In the end, it’s just a gadget and there a lot of people getting by with a lot less than that.

Although it was the third day of Lent by that Friday, I hadn’t yet decided what I was giving up for the season. I decided to offer up the iPad as a sacrifice for Lent, turning my disappointment into prayer for the needs of my family. It’s not curing world hunger, but it was something.

But then something wonderful happened on Saturday. Melanie pulled me aside and told me she’d been thinking and, if I was really sure that we had the funds available, I could get the iPad. The skies parted, angels sang, and the sun shone down.

Of course, I forgot my Lenten sacrifice.

I ran to the computer to see if I could order one online. Ack, backorders were listed at 3 to 4 weeks. On Monday, I went to the Apple Store. Sold out, no idea when more would come in. I went back a few times, even first thing in the morning and finally learned that people were lining up at 5am every day and getting the few iPads coming in each day. I resigned myself to ordering online finally, having lost a week in the process.

The other day as I was checking my order status for the umpteenth time, I suddenly remembered my Lenten promise to God to offer up my disappointment at not having an iPad. With a sneaking suspicion, I checked again the expected date of shipment that Apple gave me: April 21. Holy Thursday. Delivery date: April 26. Easter Tuesday.

I had to laugh. Even if I’d forgotten my Lenten promise, it seems God had not. I really was giving up my new iPad for Lent.

So now, I’m waiting every day for the end of Lent to come, awaiting in anticipation of Easter glory for more than one reason. And as I start to see friends get their iPads, I feel that pang of envy. I have not yet mastered my feelings, but this is good practice.

I’m so glad God has a sense of humor. And I’m glad I have a patient, understanding and wonderful wife who puts up with my nonsense. I couldn’t be more blessed.

Update: I just received an email notifying me that my iPad has shipped early from Shenzen, China! And when will it arrive? Yep, at the end of Lent.

What can Brown do for Yemeni terrorists?

By now you’ve heard about today’s excitement surrounding suspicious packages containing explosives found on UPS flights originating in Yemen. Reports say they were addressed to Jewish organizations in the Chicago area. Now, I’m glad no one was hurt and terrorism itself isn’t funny, but it struck me as odd that al Quaeda just decided to overnight their terrorism to their erstwhile victims.

I can just picture the Yemeni bombers finishing their bombs, but confronted with the fact that they were set to explode tomorrow.How would they get them to their targets in the US before they exploded?

Terrorist 1: “Well, we could buy plane tickets and fly them there.”
Terrorist 2: “Idiot! We’d never make it past security.”
T1: “Then I’ll put it in my shoe.”
T2: “Stupid dog! We tried that. Remember the Shoe Bomber?”
T3: “Brothers! Look at this book I just got from Amazon Prime. I ordered it yesterday and now it’s here just one day later.”

“UPS: When it absolutely, positively has to blow up overnight.”

(I know, it was Fedex’s slogan, but the terrorists decided to see what Brown could do for them and picked UPS instead. I won’t let them ruin my joke.)


Stephen Colbert on the Pope’s new hat and CatholicTV

Stephen Colbert, host of the Comedy Central show “Colbert Nation,” is famously Catholic and he gives a somewhat irreverent, but very funny segment on Pope Benedict’s new choice of headgear and then 3 minutes on Boston’s own CatholicTV and its efforts to in 3D technology.

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Pope’s Baseball Cap & CatholicTV<a>
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

Showing we have a sense of humor at the Archdiocese, we tweeted back to him:

By the way @stephenathome, we've seen your liturgical dancing. Can we broadcast that in 3D on @CatholicTV?

The tweet refers to this YouTube clip:


Dumb and dumberer (or is it dummerer?)

I have a sneaking suspicion that this story is some kind of PR stunt or flash mob gag. It just beggars belief. A group of yahoos protested outside the National Spelling Bee last week, demonstrating against standardized spelling. They say that we should take a clue from the kids whose misspellings litter Twitter, Facebook, YouTube comments, and text messages.

The cost of clinging to traditional spellings, they say, is millions of illiterate English speakers who struggle to read signs or get good jobs, and billions of dollars in lost productivity.

Let me get this straight: The solution to illiteracy is making signs harder to read by giving a greenlight to a free-for-all in acceptable spelling. I guess it would level the playing field so that the literate and illiterate alike won’t be able to read anything.

One of the anti-spelling arguments is that standardized spelling is a modern invention imposed by the requirements of the printing press, and that even William Shakespeare spelt wurds n-e witch whey he wuntid. Yes, well, indoor plumbing is a modern invention too, and we’re not giving that up either.

In the end, who are they asking to change all this? There’s no government standards body enforcing correct spelling. How about these people show the courage of their convictions and start evangelizing the movement themselves? They cold start by misspelling all the words in their resumés, contracts, and other work-related documents. Hope it works out for you.

Meanwhile, if you want to find out why Johnny can’t spell, it’s not the fault of technology. Let’s start with the fact that most kids don’t read and then add the reality that American public school education does pretty poor job of teaching literacy and spelling.


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