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Talking to Humans in Customer Service


Have you ever called a customer service number and had that 10-minute conversation with the computer-automated voice? She asks you to input numbers (followed by the “pound” sign, which you always mix up with the “star” key). She also asks you to clearly answer her questions with your audible voice.

Have you ever kept hitting numbers (especially “zero”) in hopes that you would be brought to a real human, but to no avail?

Have you ever shouted at the automated voice, hoping your emotions would be conveyed to the computer?

Have you ever labored through the prompts and data-input, only to get cut off after waiting on hold for 15 minutes? Or worse, get cycled back to the very beginning of the prompts?

Here is your answer, my friend: It is a website called www.gethuman.com

This website lists the customer service phone numbers for tons of major companies – and then it gives instructions on what numbers to press and what prompts to follow in order to talk to a REAL HUMAN.

I just used it for contacting amazon.com, whose website is very hard to navigate in search of a customer service phone number. I got a human and got my problem solved.

Enjoy.

Joggling the Richmond Half-Marathon

Let me start with a confession. I do not run much. I signed up for this half-marathon as a spontaneous, last minute whim because my wife was doing the full and I was tired of watching people do half-marathons and thinking (“I could do that”). So, without any training or stretching (except the biking that I often do), I got up and ran 13.1 miles. Or rather, slowly jogged. And yes, I was able to juggle the whole time (with a few drops – let me explain)….

This was my first half and the furthest I have ever joggled (or even ran, for that matter). I made it all the way to just shy of the 11-mile marker without a drop (nor did I stop for water, bathroom, or to walk). Then it all fell apart. I dropped about 4 times in miles 11 and 12 because I started to walk a little and got my cadence off. I realized that walking and juggling is harder than joggling (for me at least). There is not a consistent rhythm. It was also hard to get back to running and juggling after having walked. Nonetheless, I picked up and kept going after the four drops and I finished strong with a jog and a run for the last half-mile. Finished in 2:33. My goal was 2:30. Had a great time. Sarah and I are enjoying limping around the house and neighborhood.

I must also make another confession – I love the attention and cheering I get for being a joggler. I do not know if I could do these races without joggling (or without some sort of batman suit or tutu). I love the rush of hearing all those bystanders cheer for “the juggler” (or even the remarks from other runners – which range from praise to jealousy). The cheering sends chills through me and it gives me enough boosts to make it through the race successfully.

What a day. I think I could do this again.

I Saw The Wooden Paddle

Today, Sarah and I enthusiastically voted – after standing in line for a mere hour and a half. I’m sure there are plenty of other people in this nation who waited much longer than that today. It was drizzling and a little cold, but it went by fast, especially since we had one another’s company. We met some of the candidates for the office of mayor and school board here in Richmond. We are a “swing district”, so the candidates wanted to catch us as we stood in our long lines. I asked two of the mayoral candidates the same question – “What makes you different than the people you are running against?” I asked that question because most of my research on the candidates showed that they all pretty much said the same thing – “We need better schools.” “We need to be responsible with the city’s finances.” “We need to make sure we develop the city and think about the needs of the people at the same time.” “We need this, we need that, blah, blah, blah.” I got to hear them try to distinguish themselves while they were talking face-to-face with me. One of the candidates impressed me more than the other in his answer, so I voted for that guy.

Anyway, I really want to share about my week of juggling at school assemblies in Mississippi last week. A church in Northern Mississippi sponsored me to come in and teach about “perseverance” with my juggling show to the local public schools in their area. The church also had me perform at some events at their own church. It was a great time with some great southern hospitality. In fact, one of the best parts of my meals was the option to have tea flavored sugar (others call it sweet tea). A few things about the culture in Mississippi surprised me. First of all, the county in which I stayed was a completely “dry” county. Not only were alcohol sales banned, but you could not even possess alcohol in your homes. They are voting today on whether to allow liquor to be sold in the county. Secondly, and more surprising to me, was the “wooden paddle.” As I was setting up for my juggling assembly at one of the public elementary schools, a teacher about my age walked in with her class – with a wooden paddle in her hand. Yes, they still paddle the kids in parts of America. This paddle was a bit bigger than a ping pong paddle yet smaller than a racquetball racquet. It was made of wood and had tape wrapped around the middle that was flapping off a little bit. I almost could not believe my own eyes. My friend told me that when he was in High School, the High School shop class would make the paddles for the elementary school. Wow. Now parents do have to sign a waiver allowing the child to be paddled if necessary. Apparently, most of the parents are cool with it.

All in all, I had a great time. And I hope to visit my friends again in the great state of Mississippi.

Child’s Play is Not Just Child’s Play

In an article from U.S. News and World Report, “children’s services” was on a short list of industries which are condusive to making millionaires out of those who run such industries (http://www.usnews.com/articles/business/small-business-entrepreneurs/2008/10/07/how-to-make-a-million.html). I work in a field called “children’s ministry,” where the goal is to reach kids with the message of God found in the Bible. And though making millions is not quite the goal in children’s ministry, this article has some interesting insight.

They claim that the reason people can be so successful running “children’s services” (such as specialized education, arts, and programs for young people) is because parents (even in tough economic times) are willing to part with a lot of money just so their children can have the best opportunities for success in life.

Here is the insight: if parents dump tons of money into their children for the sake of making sure their kids have a “better life,” then that says a lot about the importance of children’s ministry in churches and communities. People pay for the things they value. Apparently, parents highly value the prosperity of their children. Those of us in children’s ministry should be aware of that and not be shy about what we do. We have the opportunity to serve kids and families in ways that reach beyond the good things promoted by the local tumbling franchise and the Montesorri schools. Parents care. They will serve, they will donate, they will participate. We are not babysitters, we are not daycare. We get to offer the message of God’s love, forgiveness, and grace to children (who Jesus says are the inheritors of the Kingdom of heaven).

An Archaeological Find – In Our Apartment!


The other night, Sarah came shrieking out of the kitchen, “There are two enormous cockroaches crawling around in the kitchen!” I, superhusband, went to the rescue, slightly aggravated that my wife had gotten so worked up about these two innocent creatures. They were long gone by the time I got to the kitchen, but we looked into the corner near where she saw them. This was a corner between the cabinets and the wall in our kitchen – a small crevice we had never really investigated before. I got out my flashlight and inspected the small crevice. Sure enough, I saw a hole big enough for cockroaches to crawl through, so I stuffed it with an old sock (we’ll see how that works). Then I looked further into the crevice between the cabinets and the wall. There was an old book.

Now, I had the privilege of both surveying and digging at archaeological sites in the Middle East, unearthing everything from centuries-old pottery to 20th Century ammunition from the Six-Day War. That was cool. But to find an old book in our circa 1923 apartment building in Richmond, Virginia was also pretty cool. I used the handle of the flyswatter to retrieve my find.

It was an old spiral-bound book called “700 of the best HOUSEhold Tips – that save time and money!” with a picture of an anthropomorphized house with a broom and a smile. Who knows how many tenants have lived in this 450 square-foot urban apartment. But one of them left behind a gem. And Sarah and I will glean from its wisdom for the rest of our days. It tells us tips like how to create “soap for kids” – you “put bits of soap in an old stocking and tie the end. Children will find it easier to hold.” Brilliant!

Here’s another: “SHORT LEG: If one leg on a piece of furniture is shorter than the rest, balance it by gluing a garden hose washer to the tip of the leg.” Why didn’t I think of that one earlier?

And another: “PICKLESS LOCK: Your lock can’t be picked if you leave your key in the inside lock.” The key word here is inside.

And another: “REMOVING DEAD SKIN: Rub a bit of Miracle Whip salad dressing into your skin and let it stand a moment. Rub vigorously and dead skin is quickly removed. However, this only works using Miracle Whip, not mayonnaise.” Shucks, I guess whatever you use will work as long as you “rub vigorously.”

one more….”STATIC ELECTRICITY: To eliminate clinging dresses, run a wire coat hanger between your slip and dress.” Remember to remove the wire hanger before going to that job interview.

I am so glad I found this earth-shattering volume on household tips. It doesn’t even have a date or publisher information. It probably came as a free gift with a Good Housekeeping subscription back in the day – or something similar.

Have a great day – and remember to keep your keys in the locks to prevent invaders!

How to Avoid the Economy’s Mess


My wife and I sometimes listen to a podcast by a guy named Dave Ramsey. He teaches sound financial advice – things like not going into debt, living on a budget, and working hard for a living. Recently, his radio show has been bombarded with e-mails about the trouble in the economy. Since Sarah and I do not have a TV, we were made aware through this podcast (and news found on the internet) that there is trouble on Wall Street. Apparently, the television news media does a Hollywood job at dramatizing the problems (and real problems they are) as apocalyptic nightmares. Sarah and I keep working, saving, and spending money on things we can afford (things we have never really done well until this year – after listening to Dave Ramsey’s shows and reading his books). As a result, the volatility of Wall Street and the economy at large does not affect us very much. What bliss! Furthermore, we are considering starting our Roth IRA’s and pumping money into a Mutual Fund for saving for a house. What better time to start investing than when the Stock Market is DOWN! As Ramsey says, the stock market is ON SALE. It has nowhere to go but up over the long-haul, as every ten-year period since like the 20’s has shown a profit.

So please calm down. The economic world is not collapsing over our heads, despite what ratings-hungry talking heads say. Go out and enjoy the wonderful autumn air.

Jesse the Juggler DVD Release


Announcing the release of the very first DVD from Jesse the Juggler! It is sensibly called “Live Show” and I just did my first run of 50 copies to see how this flies. If it goes over well, I’ll get more duplicated. For now, I’ll take it around with me to my juggling programs and offer them to people afterwards. It has a full-length stage presentation of my show, two of my promo videos, a picture slideshow, and three smaller (more goofy) videos. My friend Ben Keeling did a smackdown job on the artwork and my new friend Zack at Revolve-CD in Richmond, VA did the DVD duplication work for me. They are shrink-wrapped and ready to go. Let me know if you would like a copy – they’re going for $20 right now.

Ike Made it to Ohio!

Hurricanes are typical for the coasts, but rare is the one that reaches far inland with strength to really damage much. I was traveling from Sweetser, Indiana to Richmond, Virginia yesterday (about an 11-hour drive). Instead, the whole trip lasted about 15 hours due to Hurricane Ike’s trek through the upper midwest. I was low on gas around Dayton, Ohio, which is when I saw the strong winds begin. So I looked for a place to get gas – but all the power was out. My cell phone was almost dead on the battery – and there was nowhere to pull over and recharge it (I did not have a car charger). After trying unsuccessfully to navigate through some back roads near Dayton to get through the storm (many roads were blocked with downed tress and/or powerlines), I pulled over into a gas station (which was out of power) and waited. I had no cash (only my debit card, which requires electricity to run through a machine). I had not eaten lunch or dinner (it was about 4pm). I was out of water (I was thirsty). I called Sarah to tell her that I had no idea when I would make it home and that I might not be able to communicate with her due to the dead cell phone. So I just sat in the car and read a book while the storm passed over. It was interesting, because it showed me just how much we rely on power for EVERYTHING in this country/culture. All of a sudden, my life was diminished to a sort of primitive survival mode. I was concerned about where I was going to find water, food, and shelter for the evening. Thankfully, I took the risk of driving further to look for a gas station with power – and my tank’s last bit of gas got me to one. There was a long line, of course, and each filling took a long time because the whole gas station must have been running on a generator. I drove again to a restaurant for dinner and ate while I charged the phone. I hit the road again and finally got to sleep in the same bed as my wife by 4am. Now I’m running on under two hours of sleep – but with all the electricity I could ask for.

The Disconnect Between the New Testament and Today

If we really read the stories of the New Testament and look around today…does anybody else see a completely different world, even a vastly different form of Christianity? Jesus and his followers administered physical healings, demon exorcisms, prophetic utterances, prayers in unknown languages, etc, etc. They lived communally – sharing their resources among themselves (at least the community described in Acts 2 did so). I wonder how much of the New Testament we should expect to live out as Christians today and how much of it is “cultural” and “only pertinent to that time.” This is a discussion that has already split churches into denominations, but it is still a relevant topic on which I wish to ponder (and seek the Lord’s guidance on). There’s gotta be more to Christianity than what appears to be “Christianity” today. On the journey, humbly…Jesse.

Quote of the Day – John Piper

“If money is the motive, your joy comes not from the ministry but from the stuff you can buy with your salary.” – John Piper, Desiring God.