Month: August 2013

What are you missing?

Slow down. Stop and breathe. Take in the sights and sounds around you. Do you know how much you miss when you’re driving? Sure, you can get to places far away. But do you know what you’re missing near where you live because you’re busy racing by?

So often I climb into my car and race off to where I am going. The destination is the point. The journey fraught with annoyance and delay. I rarely enjoy the drive. I want to get where I’m going.

This morning I woke up early on my day off. I jumped into my car and drove it to the dealership to have some repairs made. I dropped off my car. I handed over the key and then…

I had to get home.

The dealership is about 2.5 miles from home. My way home could have taken many forms. I could catch a local bus and ride it right to my front door. I could hail a cab and pay dearly for those short miles. I could walk to the metro station and take the subway to a closer stop and walk the rest of the way home.

I decided to spend time instead of money. I have time today. I don’t have to be anywhere. I don’t have to get to work. The whole day is wide open to me.

So I walked.

The weather is cool. The scattered showers fell elsewhere. It took me about an hour and I feel good.

I feel awake and I feel ready to start my day. I am sitting in the sofa in my living room and typing these words. I am reflecting on some ideas I had walking home. I got through a few podcasts I’d been meaning to listen to when I wasn’t distracted by anything else.

And I noticed some new things. I noticed a little stream that runs under the road near my house I’ve never seen before. Despite working at the National Institutes of Health, I’ve never noticed just how much green space there was on the campus.

Deer jumping

Deer are a common sight on the NIH campus.

I didn’t realize much (maybe all) of the NIH campus is an environmentally protected area. Deer are a common sight. There is so much concrete in the city, the NIH campus is an oasis of green plant life. It’s a welcomed change from the urban black and gray.

There is a church on a hill I drive past every day is the Bethesda Meeting House which is responsible for naming the modern city of Bethesda, MD based on the place of healing referenced in the Bible.

I spend too much of my life racing around and trying to get to where I’m going. It’s good to slow down and take in what’s around you. Walk around your neighborhood and see what you’ve never noticed before.

Live Chat

Chase over at Support Ops wrote about live chat making customers happier. The post makes a good point about customers being happier when they can talk to someone directly on the site they’re visiting. He ends the post with a call for other experiences and I wrote a comment that could have been a post, so now it is.

I don’t usually go for live chat functions. When I walk into a store, virtual or physical I don’t want to overeager sales reps to descend upon me. However, I have to compliment Dell and Crutchfield for both offering stellar a Live Chat experience.

Dell has a wonderful live chat. For the last few times I’ve needed to contact them, I have gone straight to the chat option. It’s so much easier when conveying serial numbers, machine types and technical information such as error messages to be able to type it out. That way, the support rep can copy and paste the error codes and other information without the E as in Egg, P as in Plum song and dance over the phone.

Dell Chat

Dell Support Chat offers technician and advanced troubleshooting options.

They also have an option when entering the chat to check a box that you are a technical support rep contacting them. They’ve even gone further and added a box for advanced troubleshooting steps.

This is such an important change and a much appreciated option. It can cut down on the time having to explain the steps taken to resolve an issue and yes, I did try turning it off and on and I did unplug the unit and try it again a few minutes later.

When I need a hardware replacement, they have been ready to take the shipping address and to verify my contact information when the Dell Tech enters the chat. It saves me a huge amount of time out of my day and can really shine light on the sub-par experience other manufacturers offer for those seeking help.


I’d be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to compliment Crutchfield as well. They offer a stellar chat for shopping assistance. Recently, I was looking for a way to add iPhone input to my Nissan Murano who has a non-standard stock stereo so it wasn’t as easy as replacing the unit.

I got on the chat with Taylor and within minutes, we had decided on a course of action. They sold a part I could attach to the back of the stock stereo and would give me a headphone jack I could then use to input any audio I wanted into.

Crutchfield Chat

It was a perfect solution and it was very fast and throughout we were able to browse their web site together through sending links back and forth and I could get immediate answers and clarification to what I was looking at because Taylor was right there with me.

At the end of the chat, the transcript is emailed to me. Both Dell and Crutchfield do this and it’s very helpful when going back days, weeks or even months later. I can refer to that chat and have the information I need without needing to contact them again.

About Blank

There is something beautiful about about:blank. Go ahead. Type it into your browser window. http://about:blank. What do you see there?


That’s right. Absolutely nothing. It’s a blank page. It’s a white canvas. There is nothing there at all. There are no promises there. There is nothing to live up to. There is nothing. Blank.

In a world that wants to fill every possible space with ads and information, it’s nice to have some solace. It’s nice to have a little digital quiet space.

I like about:blank because it is that quiet space. When I type http://about:blank into my browser, I know what will be returned is nothing. In all it’s peace.

I often use about:blank as my start page. I don’t need to see anything when I open a new window. I don’t need to be overrun with information. I don’t need to have my thought train derailed by a social network or a story waiting for me, or a tempting ad from a start page.

I need a little quiet time. I need a little quiet space. I need some time to think. To consider my next move. My next action is what’s important.

Where am I am going?
What am I doing?
Why did I open this window to begin with?

Sometimes the answer is simply to close the window and walk away.