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I can’t believe the phone conversation I just had. (Okay, maybe I can.)

This past summer I got a new phone—an LG Rumor Touch—with Sprint, the wireless company I’ve been with since 2001. It’s certainly no iPhone, but for making phone calls and sending text messages, it’s a good phone. The only problem was that I couldn’t send or receive pictures via text messaging (a.k.a. “picture mail”). The phone would just show “ERROR 7 Network timeout”. I took my phone into my local Sprint store and the techs there fooled around with it and reset it, wiping all my data, but they couldn’t fix it. They gave me an “eTicket” number and told me to call Sprint tech support.

I got busy with other things, started a new semester, and generally felt like I had better things to do than spend a couple hours on the phone wrangling with a customer service rep over a minor detail like picture mail, so I let it go. After getting Dorothy’s iPhone set up to text pictures the other day, I decided that it’s time to get my own phone fixed, so tonight I called *2 and prepared for customer service hell.

The first rep I talked to got hung up on the fact that I was calling on the phone that needed to be fixed—presumably because she then wouldn’t be able to make me jump through the standard basic troubleshooting hoops. What could she do for me tonight, I asked.

Not much, sir.

Well, “not much” is more than nothing, but in the end, despite my assurances that I had already been to the Sprint store and that they had failed to fix my phone, all she could do was refer me back to the store since I lacked another phone to call back on.

Not ready to give up, I decided to give chat support a try. At least that way I wouldn’t be on the phone while communicating with the rep. Meanwhile, I remembered that I had that eTicket number from my visit to the Sprint store, which would have notes attached to it about what the techs tried to do that day, so I typed it into the chat window. The rep, “Ben”,  had me turn my phone off and on, which triggered the network timeout error. I received lots of messages from the rep thanking for my patience and assuring me that he was looking into something or another, but in the end, after 30 minutes, I was told that I had to call tech support.

Well, at least now I had my old eTicket number. Perhaps now the phone rep would be able to see that the store had checked the hardware and would examine my account more closely for configuration problems. Unfortunately, this new phone rep was fixated on the fact that I had called earlier today and had been referred back to the store. I insisted that she look up the eTicket from August.

Are you aware that it is December?

Really? And here I thought we were having an unseasonably cold September.

She seemed to think that the eTicket from my call earlier tonight took precedence over anything that came before and that there was nothing to be gained by looking at the older eTicket. I pressed further. I explained that the staff at the store hadn’t seemed to understand the problem. The hardware checked out, and they had given me the impression that there was probably something wrong with my account.

Can you make phone calls? Can you send text messages?

Yes.

Then your account is fine.

Well, I can’t do anything with data, I countered.

Oh, hold on… … … I think I see the problem.

Finally! She explained that she was making some corrections to the settings on my account, told me to use the option to update my phone’s profile and then try sending a picture mail after hanging up, and promised to call back in a few minutes.

You may receive a survey about your experience today. Would you say that your problem was completely resolved?

Not yet. (I mean, seriously?)

I hung up, updated my profile, and was able to successfully send a picture to myself. And yes, the rep did call back—and proceeded to try to up-sell me to a more expensive service plan.

So how long did all that take? Approximately 2 hours.

What did we learn? Persistence pays off; don’t take no for an answer.

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I enjoyed this little exchange that was highlighted in the April 2010 issue of American Libraries magazine.

“I educated myself. I went to the library—the books are free.” FoxNews host Glenn Beck, addressing the Conservative Political Action Conference on February 19.

“Glenn, Glenn, Glenn. The library isn’t free! It’s paid for with tax money! Free public libraries are the result of the progressive movement to communally share books. The first public library was the Boston Public Library in 1854. Its statement of purpose: Every citizen has the right to access community-owned resources. Community-owned? That sounds just like communists. You’re a communist!” Jon Stewart, The Daily Show, February 22.

Watch the clip on thedailyshow.com.

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Below is the prayer I wrote for my Dad’s wedding this past weekend:

Heavenly Father;
Thrice Holy Lord of the universe enthroned in splendor;
most righteous, most gracious, most merciful, most loving God:

We lift up our voices to you to give you praise and thanks. We thank you foremost for the love that you have shown the world in the work of Christ on the cross for those who place their faith in him. Your name be praised above all others throughout all the Earth.

We also have occasion to thank you today as we celebrate the love between my Dad—Roger—and Sherry—this wonderful woman you have brought into his life according to your good providence.

We ask your blessing upon this marriage. When they laugh in times of joy, may they give you praise. When they cry in times of distress, may they seek comfort from you. When they labor in the work that you have given them, may they find their hope and strength in you. When they hurt each other, may they have the courage to recognize and confess their fault, and may they have the grace to offer forgiveness just as you offer it to us.

Challenge and enable them to grow together in grace and godliness—to grow in love for each other, for you, and for others. May they help each other more fully develop the gifts that you have given them.

As they make vows today to love, cherish, and care for one another, and as they seek to fulfill those vows in the years to come, remind them that it is only in the power of Christ that they have hope to overcome sin and remain faithful to such promises.

Keep them forever in your love and care. We pray these things in the glorious name of your faithful son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Snow and ice have been falling. Schools are closed. It’s a snow day! Since I didn’t have to go into work, I felt it was a good opportunity to spend a little time working on a programming project for work that I’ve had on the back burner.

One of the things I have to do at work it post the Library’s monthly new acquisitions list. I used to just forward the Excel file produced by the Tech. Services department to the webmaster who would convert it to HTML and post it to the web site. Since the Seminary’s website transitioned to a Content Management System that gives me editing access, I got to take over the HTML conversion process. Much to my chagrin, however, I found out that the conversion process involves a lot of manual copying and pasting in Excel, using a formula to concatenate the various fields into the final product, and then a series of search-and-replaces to clean up special characters and blank lines. I had hoped that there was just a program that I could run the file through to format the data with the necessary HTML tags, so that’s what I set out to do.

I’ve long wanted an excuse to start learning PHP, and this seemed like a good problem to solve via a simple PHP web app, so I started Googling for example PHP code for processing tab-delimited text files, handling special characters, and receiving web form input. I also dusted off my copy of the very handy PHP Function Index application, which provides an interface for viewing, searching, and browsing PHP’s documentation. After a few false starts, struggling to understand some new functions, and debugging a few errors, my first PHP application, HTMLified Acquisitions List Generator, was done.

Now I have a simple web app where I can select a tab-delimited text file containing the acquisitions data in the proper order, and the application will spit out HTML code that I can simply paste into the “Recent Acquisitions” page.

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Today I got another t-shirt from shirt.woot: “Say No To Scurvy”.

T-shirt design by fablefire, produced by Woot!

T-shirt design by fablefire, produced by Woot!

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