"...it's like Will Rogers, Jean Shepherd and some grumpy Jewish man all rolled into one."

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Quote Vadis

"People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing. That’s why we recommend it daily." -- Zig Ziglar
  • Those who ignore the bathing recommendation will be seated in the Engineering section.

"It costs $0.00 to be a decent human being." -- Unknown
  • Did you catch that, Donald Trump?

"It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do." -- Steve Jobs
  • And yet my requests for mo’ money go unheeded.

"Leaders who don't listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say." -- Andy Staley
  • Leaders who have nothing to say will eventually be surrounded by reporters when they announce their entry into politics.

"If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything." -- Mark Twain
  • I didn't have a brain fart; I was just being "truthful".

"If serving someone is beneath you, then leadership is above you." -- Unknown
  • And yet our CEO sends an admin out to fetch his coffee.

"Do not tolerate brilliant jerks. The cost to teamwork is too high." -- Reed Hastings
  • Do like most companies do – promote them into “Internal Consultant” positions.

"Without data you're just another person with an opinion." -- W. Edwards Deming
  • So you say.

"Any success that happens at the expense of your health, your family or your character is not real success." -- Unknown
  • Well, I already sacrificed my character to get this job in the first place, so we’re really just down to the first two.

"At the end of the day it's not about what you have or even what you've accomplished... It's about who you've lifted up, who you've made better. It's about what you've given back." -- Denzel Washington
  • My calendar is swamped; can we try for next week?

"Getting the right people in the right jobs is a lot more important than developing a strategy." -- Jack Welch
  • Uh, people who are willing to work for a company without a strategy are the “wrong” people by default.

“The sidelines are not where you want to live your life. The world needs you in the arena.” -- Tim Cook
  • Isn't the arena where they release the lions who then maul you to death?

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Cause For Alarm

Carol and I were just about to step out of the house to head for a Sunday morning hike when the smoke alarm went off. In between a series of 85-decibel warning shrieks the downstairs unit frantically shouted "FIRE!! FIRE!!" just in case we didn't get the point. With no apparent signs of smoke I pushed a button to trigger the "hush" feature, which is there in case I've merely burned the toast or decided to take up smoking cigars indoors. We have three inter-connected units and by now the other two had taken up the war cry, so I dashed around the house to get them all to shut the       £#¢k up. Presuming the source has been contained within ten minutes, the system will then reset and remain silent. During that time, I checked to make sure all the appliances were off (they were) and then wedged myself into the crawl space under the house to see if the oil burner was engulfed in flames (it wasn't). Finding no apparent source of concern I came back inside, expecting the incident to become a distant if unsettling memory. Presuming this had been just an anomalous outburst, we picked up our hiking supplies and headed again for the door.

Right at the ten-minute mark: "SHRIEK - SHRIEK - SHRIEK!!" "FIRE!! FIRE!!" "SHRIEK - SHRIEK - SHRIEK - SHRIEK!!" "WARNING!! CARBON MONOXIDE!!" That was a new wrinkle -- invisible, deadly gas was now potentially introduced into the alleged calamity. I mashed the hush buttons again but none of the units would stop screaming. Besides the two of us going deaf, the poor cats were completely freaked out and ran around the house seeking refuge from the noise. I opened the door to the electrical panel and flipped off the breaker controlling the alarms. That didn't faze them since there is also a 9-volt battery in each unit as a backup. I popped open the door to the battery compartments to completely disconnect the power. Even then, the system made a gasp with its last breath, sounding like someone in the midst of an asthma attack gasping in a hoarse whisper for an inhaler just out of reach. "Shriek!... shriek... fi..re!"

By now we were thoroughly rattled and decided to put off our departure until we could get the alarms to calm down permanently. I dug out the user's guide and spent a solid fifteen minutes trying to make sense of it. With a collapsed size the same as a deck of playing cards, and seemingly contrary to the dictum that no piece of paper can be folded in half more than seven times, the fully expanded guide ended up hanging over the edges of our dining room table. I finally found the troubleshooting section after trying to read type set with a font size of "neutrino". Here I was instructed to remove the units from their wall mounts and give them a thorough vacuuming to remove any dust. I did so, then remounted them and flipped on the breaker. While this effort seemed to soothe the upstairs hallway alarm, the other two immediately resumed their overlapping hyperbole, creating a ping-ponging echo between upstairs and down: "WARNING!!NING!! CARBONBON MONOXIDE!!NOXIDE!!" Now we were convinced the alarms were dysfunctional and so left for our stroll with the breaker shut off, batteries disconnected... and windows open. Just in case.

Every few months there's a story on the news about an electrical fire where overheated wiring buried in a wall smolders for hours before finally combusting. The unsuspecting family returns home several hours later to find their house engulfed in flames and all their belongings reduced to ash.

That's not at all what happened to us -- but I had you there for a moment, didn't I? The house was intact and the cats were roaming around, still suffering with tinnitus but conscious and alert -- so no fire and no gas leak. I replaced the units the next day, opting to go with a system that was not interconnected. So far we haven't been startled by any further digitized warning cries. Or tripped over any dead cats. Everything is back to normal and we're again tripping over the cats only when they're sleeping on the stairs. I guess the next thing I need to install is a "lack of motion" detector in order to avoid a completely different kind of cat-tastrophe.

I hope that feeble pun didn't alarm you.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Speaker Of The House

Cruising through one of the big warehouse stores while waiting for the missus to decide on a pair of glasses, I spied a wireless TV soundbar on markdown. "I've got to have that," I convinced myself. I had a $10 gift card burning a hole in my wallet, making it an even more appealing deal, so when we walked out of the store my wife held a receipt for the promise of her new glasses in three weeks while I had a brand new toy to play with that very afternoon. I won.

Until I got home and unpacked my purchase. I'm not sure how "wireless" made it into the product description since the first step in the instructions was to plug the speaker into an outlet. I'm no electrician, but I believe that requirement exposed the "wireless" designation as a bald-faced lie. Step 2 was to establish the "wireless" connection between the soundbar and TV set. O... K... I guess that's what they were referring to on the package description. The soundbar and our TV were from the same manufacturer and the instructions indicated that any set produced by the company since 2012 had this feature built in to facilitate such a set up. I'd purchased our set in late 2013, right after we'd moved into our lake house, so I figured I was good to go. I figured wrong. 

The TV did not have the "Sound Connect" feature as part of its array. Now I had to default to an alternate installation option, which specified the use of an "AUX Cable (not supplied)." Are you freaking KIDDING ME? After briefly flipping out, I noticed there was an optic cable included with the speaker which could be used as an alternate to the alternate. Huzzah.

Now all that was left to do was place the battery in the remote control (another remote control to add to my already impressive collection) and turn this sucker on. I pressed the power button and nothing happened. I continued to press the button, adding the "extend arm toward the device, using the elbow" motion as if I just needed to give the infrared impulse a little push to get it close enough to be recognized by the unit. Still no luck. I thought perhaps the battery was dead. Luckily I happened to have the same kind of pancake-shaped power source in my odds and ends box, so I swapped it out and tried again. Same outcome as Nixon's assessment of the results of the ten-year air campaign during the Vietnam War: "Zilch." I walked over and pressed the manual power switch I found on the front of the console; the display lit up and a few seconds later sound issued from the speaker. Utilizing my acute knowledge of home sound system manufacturing processes I deduced the remote was defective. Crap.

Seeking a replacement, I called the manufacturer's toll-free customer service number and connected with a live representative after a shockingly minimal amount of menu navigation. The agent was very pleasant, empathizing with my issue and assuring me she could help resolve the matter quickly. She told me to remove the battery and then repeatedly press as many buttons on the remote as I could. I responded by assuring her I felt confident I could press all of the buttons -- no technical novice was I. After doing so, she told me to reinsert the battery. Then she asked if I had a camera nearby -- ??? Or did my smartphone have a camera built in -- ??? Confused, I said my phone had a camera, whereupon she told me to point the remote at the phone while in camera mode and then press the power button. Ah, now I understood -- this was a way for me to see if it was working without being blinded by whatever kind of pulse emanated from the device. I confirmed I saw flashing via the camera display, which pleased the rep. "Great!" she exclaimed. "Now we have confirmed that your remote is functioning properly. This means the receptor on your soundbar is defective. You can return it to our service center to have it repaired." I replied since I'd purchased the unit mere hours before I would instead return it to the store for an exchange. Annoying, but quicker and easier than repackaging the unit, mailing it back to the company and waiting weeks for its return.

Carol had been seated at the computer this whole time, close enough to hear the troubleshooting discussion. Once I'd hung up the phone and expressed my dismay at having purchased a bum speaker, she got up without a word and walked over to where I'd set it up in front of the TV. Giving it a quick once-over, she lifted the speaker and rotated it 90 degrees on its horizontal axis before setting it back down. "Try the remote again," she commanded. Shaking my head to imply "Whatever..." I pressed the button and the speaker immediately lit up. Speaking the words I was too dumbstruck to voice myself, Carol clarified I'd placed the speaker with its grill facing down rather than facing out from the TV (the manual controls were now displayed on the top, rather than the front, of the unit). Once the grill was in the correct alignment the sensor was exposed, and everything worked as it should. 

Except, of course, for my brain. That unit remains defective and, sadly, is long out of warranty.