Category: Life

The Power of the Consumer.

I know that this post comes late, but hopefully you won’t call and complain. That last sentence will make sense in a moment.

This post is about what power we, the consumer have. In this economic time, most are willing to do whatever they can do to keep their customers. For example, the average person spends $350,000.00 at Wal-Mart in their life. If Wal Mart makes you angry and turns you away, then they arent losing a small transaction, they are losing hundreds of thousands of dollars! We forget that we hold hundreds of thousands over the manager’s heads and too often let poor service pass along.

Without giving too much information, I just want to say that Joanna and I were treated very poorly (on several accounts) by Verizon, our cell phone provider. So when my (already defective) phone quit working a few weeks ago, I decided to bring it in. I was told that I had no options, and that the defective phone I was sold was as good as trash. No repair, no replacement phone, no ‘Im sorry’, just another rude person who couldn’t care less.

I now had to decide between shelling out hundreds for an ok new phone that might be just as awful as my last, or buying a cheap refurbished one that was made ten years ago. Now I love taking .5 megapixel pictures, but I am cheap, and I feel that I already pay too much for a phone that has barely worked. This was the last straw, and my stingy side took over.

So I set out to write some emails. Through some extensive investigation, I found the emails for Verizon’s CEO, President, Head of Customer Service, and the Mid TN Distrit Manager. I sent them essentially the same email explaining my past experiences, and telling them that I was considering terminating my contract. I did my best to be professional, but at the same time explain how and why I was so upset. I sent the email

Then, last week I got a phone call from a very nice woman that had received my email. She apologized for my experiences, overnighted me a new phone for free, and gave us a discount on out next phone bill. She was understanding and apologetic, promised to call the store I went to, and made sure that I was a satisfied customer before she let me off the phone. I honestly felt that I could have demanded free service for life and she would have made it happen.

Now you might be asking me how do the same thing. My first piece of advice is not to go out looking for something free. I never at any point thought that I should try and work this company over for some free stuff. I was treated poorly, and simply wanted to exercise my power as the consumer. If all I got was an apology, a promise to follow up with the staff, and a free repair on my dumb phone, then I would have been happy. If you have been treated poorly, then here are some tips for you:

1 Remember names and times. Even if I’m calling Comcast to ask about a $2.00 charge on my bill, I always take note of the date and time. This helps add validity. Think about it; “Tammy cussed at me and threw a pair of shoes at me last night at 9:00” means that they can verify that Tammy was working last night, and that she was in the shoe dept.

2 Dont yell. Whether you are making a phone call, or you are writing an email, stay calm. Be sure to convey that you are upset, but if you start yelling, or writing swear words, then you are only making yourself look unprofessional. Not to mention, its just tacky.

3 Use the internet. I’m serious, check out their website, read news articles on customer service and stock, and google ‘how to complain about my netflix picture quality’. You never know what you will find.

4 Use Social Media. I tweeted about waiting for a Fedex package, and an actual Fedex representative tweeted at me in minutes! My sister told me about an old woman that made a youtube video talking about Sears’ awful warranty repair guys, and Sears sent the guys to give her a new washer! These companies hire people to watch what people are saying about them on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Myspace (ok, no probably not Myspace). I wouldn’t doubt it that someone from Verizon, Fedex, Wal-Mart, or Comcast will probably stumble onto this post without me ever knowing it.

What not to do: don’t try to rip them off. If you just don’t like your phone, and want a free iPhone, or feel angry that they wouldn’t replace the phone you dropped in the lake, don’t make up some story for free stuff. Just be professional, and let them know that they will lose your patronage if they don’t right what was wronged.

So hey, remember that this is your money, and you decide where and how to spend it.


Life in the Office.

This Post is dedicated to the NBC show The Office. Joanna and I have started watching the show again, and it has reminded us why we started watching it in the first place. What makes shows like this so loveable is how we can relate to the characters. We are all forced to work with or live near characters that we would otherwise never want to include in our lives. This show is dedicated to these people, and I want to show some of the characters that are prevalent in my life.

First there is Jim. Jim is you. He is an easy going guy who works his 9 to 5 just to get by. He likes sports, is a people person, lives to for the weekend, and tries to have fun during the work hours. Even if this doesn’t describe much of you, he is personable and fun, so it is natural that you like him.

Then there is Dwight. Dwight does not quite live in the same world that we do. He has no sense o style, a freaky affinity for ancient weapons, a thorough  working knowledge of all Lord of the Rings books, and owns every episode of Battlestar Gallactica. He has trouble discerning his fantasy worlds with this one, and has no time for jokes or shenanigans. Dwight knows of a hundred different ways to kill a man, but he is most likely harmless. This guy genuinely thinks in black and white, and sees him self a champion for the good of mankind.

There is also Andy. Andy sings incessantly, and likes to remind you where he went to college. He thinks that he is the coolest thing on the planet cause he used to be in an A Capella group, but this is a soft, thin shell that can cause you to see what an insecure boy is underneath. He loves jokes, but if the joke is ever on him, then he is prone to freak.

Then there is Angela. She is the most judgmental person in the world. Her religious beliefs seem to be important to her, but to be honest, shes just looking to condemn others. She is a caricature of herself; always acting like she is too good for other people, because she prefers the company of her cats. She never lets down her guard and never lets you get away with anything. The little Tattletale thinks that jokes and fun are for the lazy and unproductive.

Sound familiar? Theres so many more, just check out the show, starting from Season 1.

Where Were You?

We have very few moments in our life that everyone remembers. Sure Mom and Dad remember your birth, friends remember their favorite concert, and too many people remember the time you rear ended the mail truck, and had to pay to fix his rickety little vehicle. But what about memories shared across a state? Across a nation? What do we have that everyone in our country will remember in the future?

I had a professor that first inspired this; He told me about where he was when he first saw the Beatles play on the Ed Sullivan show. He told me how he sat down in front of his television set as a kid, and watched as he knew history was being made. He was right too, they won 7 Grammys, put out dozens of albums, and are still one of the most easily recognized artists 50 years later.

He told us about how everyone in his generation knew exactly where they were and what was going on when they saw The Beatles, whether they were rushing home from work, sitting in a friend’s dorm room, or waiting to make a major life decision. It was a defining moment that everyone in our country shared and brought them together.

He then told us the same thing about when the Apollo 11 landed on the moon. No matter where they were or what they were doing, everyone dropped what they were doing to see what was the most amazing technological leap of its time. As Neil Armstrong set his first steps on the moon, it was no doubt that history was made once again. Unity and an unadulterated since of patriotism filled all of them as they knew that our free country had beaten the Russians, and finally made it across space to our moon.

It saddens me to say that we have only one of these moments, maybe two now. We don’t have any great moment to bring us together and unify us under happy times. We only have the tragedy of the 9/11 attacks.

I remember being a Junior in High School walking into my chorus class as I saw the first tower fall. I just stood there staring dumbfounded as I tried to comprehend what was going on. I think I went through denial, anger, bargaining, and depression all at the same time. It just seemed like a hoax, and I wanted to know why someone would play this mean of a joke on me.

I worked with a girl that was visiting New York that day. She told me about the sheer panic as she tried to find a way home, taking a train two days after she was supposed to fly home. It hit us all hard, didn’t it?

The 9/11 attacks were our “Where Were You?” moment. It brought us together as we knew that life wouldn’t be the same. Life never was the same either, even though we all tried to return to our normal lives. History was made, and there was no going back.

This was however, still a moment that brought us together. We felt stronger, felt more alive, felt more cohesive with our fellow countrymen than we ever have before. We watched as our heroes risked everything to save so many people from the wreckage. We smiled at our Policemen and Firemen, knowing that they would do the same for us if a tragedy struck our city. It was a bonding experience that we all walked away from better than on 9/10.

I still hope, though. I hope we get to have a more innocent “Where were you” moment one like The Beatles or the Moon Landing. One of these days I hope we get to feel that sense of Patriotism without such sorrow. But, for today, at least we get a certain level of closure to know that Osama Bin Laden is dead.

God Bless America.

Southern Strong

This is a special post to help promote a cause that my wife, Joanna, has started. It has to do with the awful weather that struck and demolished so many cities just this past week. Here is the link

I can still remember every detail on Good Friday 2009. Joanna and I were getting ready to head into Knoxville, and we decided to wait out the coming storm at her parents home. I didn’t even realize a storm was coming. I even check the weather- I never checked the weather. The Weather Channel was playing as we came in, and I suddenly realized how serious the incoming storm was.

We kept one eye on the TV and one eye on the clouds outside.  A funnel cloud had been spotted over Murfreesboro, and as best we could tell, it was headed in our direction. A strange fear set in as I felt so out of control. This wasn’t the feeling you get when you pass a cop car when you speed, its the numbing feeling that reaches from the top of your spine and spreads ice all the way down to your feet.

The tornado missed us by about half of a mile. For me- I had lived in Murfreesboro for almost four years, I had just bought a house, and was beginning to call this city my home. For Joanna- she had lived here her whole life. She knew someone on every street, and had gone to school with  most of their kids.

We spent most of that weekend helping out our neighbors. We literally chainsawed trees out of houses, cleared debris, and helped salvage what we could from other’s houses. Churches opened their doors, but no one came; everyone had already found a place to stay.

Now, two years later, I can absolutely say that we are stronger for it. Houses have been rebuilt, stores are up and running again, and we have moved on with our lives.

Now another awful disaster has struck our country. An estimated 300 are dead,  so many homes are gone, and people are stranded miles away from what they know. I heard an interview on the radio of a woman who had lost her home. The newsman asked her “What do you do now?” and after a long, pensive pause she replied “I dont know”.

“You rebuild it! You make your city better for it!” I screamed at the radio. It was easy for me to have so much hope, I was on the other side of a disaster. She was swimming in the middle of it.

Then, we tried to see if we could help. As we researched the area and saw that The Red Cross was overwhelmed with help. Thats what inspired Joanna and Ashlea to start this site. They decided to use their talents to help in a different way. As both are designers, they went to work on designing T-shirts and the website.

These events are what inspired the term Southern Strong. It portrays the people who are strong enough to pull through any disaster, and the masses of people who dropped whatever they were doing just to help their fellow man. It stirs a certain pride in us that makes us feel like more than just southerners or Americans.

So heres the link once more: Like it on facebook, follow it on twitter, and buy a shirt to help the American Red Cross in helping those who are in need of a helping hand.

So this is a blog on writing for all of those who write or desire to. I’ve been working on a novel for a while now, and I’m also working on this blog as well. I know I’ve had some gross inconsistencies, but this is for the most part past mistakes I’ve learned from.

Some people are born with an inate sense of organization. Life is orderly, and things seem to naturally organize themselves with little or no effort. Then there are those of you who are like me; organization is a funny word you say over and over as you miss the hamper with your socks. Things get cleaned and structured- occasionally, and the rare cleaning out your pants is a payday all in and of it’s self.

But organized writing is vital. It can make or break you when what you’ve written is a random mess of thought. What I recommend is that you treat your book, blog, or whatever like a research paper. Write out an outline, and fill in the points as you go.

On the topic of research papers, try to think of a thesis statement for your posts; or at least have some semblance of a lesson to to teach your readers. Remember; you will have plenty of time to ramble on incoherently in your old age, so make sense while you still can.

Stephen King put in the opening of his book on writing “To write is human, but to edit is divine”. Edit your work, cause no one gets it perfect the first time. Do your best to remain objective and eliminate that extra bit of fluff that may (and probably will) be there.

Then, there is a pivotal paradigm to hold if you want anyone else to see your writing; you have to be thick skinned. I’m not talking about constructive criticism from a peer, I’m talking about haters showing up out of nowhere, saying awful stuff about you, your writing, your Grandma, and the stuffed tiger you loved growing up. Just remember this; haters are gonna hate. No matter what you do, someone is going to dislike you for no good reason just because you put your thoughts to paper.

So start writing. I mean it, we all have something to say, so say it, and see what kind of reaction you will get.

Stuck in the middle

What does “middle” really mean? We carry this preconceived notion that it means we are perfectly centered between extremes. We order a medium fry, call ourselves centrists, and even feel comfortable being “middle class citizens”. You see where Im going with this?

Im going to be honest here; this post will very medium sized. It will contain moderate material, and has some very centrist views.

We gravitate towards extremes; I used to be about 60 lbs heavier than I am today, and I lost it all through a series of changes I set in my life. I started eating a more reasonable amount, and I started working out. We look at Jared’s before pictures in the Subway commercials and pity the man, but do we exalt the huge guy in the gym as he grunts out his reps on the bench? No, what we see is another extreme. We dont want to be “Fat Jared”, but  most of us dont want to look like Schwarzenegger in his glory days either.

So what happens? Why do we slip into these extremes? Many times it feels like it happens overnight. We wake up 40 lbs heavier, and wonder what caused it all. What happens is that we make a series of subtle changes, and never notice the difference.

No this isnt a blog about weight loss, thats just the metaphor, its about extremes.

Lets look at the term “Middle Class”. Im not going to post some dictionary reference, but I think that we can all agree that a Middle class family is  a family that earns around $60K a year, has a stable job, and owns their own house, but compared to any third world country, those people see us living as kings and queens.

Now lets go back to food for a second. I love food (hence the fact I had to lose 60 lbs). Go to Starbucks and order a medium (grande) latte, and you will get a 16oz drink. Now head to Sonic for a medium lemonade slush, and you will get 20 oz of sweet lemony goodness. Now go to Hardees (Carl’s Jr.) for a medium Dr. Pepper, and you will get a 32oz cup of delicious sugar! The term is completely irrelevant as far as drinks go, because there is no standard. Ive been told that a medium fry from McDonalds in France is about the same size as what you get in an American Happy Meal… So did the fries just shrink crossing the Atlantic? No, we just slowly kept increasing our portions.

Declaring yourself as a political centrist works the same way. In the 1800s, just after the constitution was ratified, a centrist would be seen as someone who wanted to transfer more power to the federal government than just the Post Office and Military. They would have seen the states as the absolute power, and there was no federal income tax! Things shifted but by bit; when the federal income tax was first instated, it only applied to the 1% richest population, and now look at how we all wait by the mailbox waiting on our returns!

Just think of this: how do we keep ourselves from sliding all over the place when we have no idea what size a medium is? Set your principles like a stake in the ground and dont let your views shift because one day your ideal fry is a kids’ size or because your views are one day seen as “radical”. Dont be mad or hate someone because they have differing principles, just remember and be ready to defend your own.

There you have it. I tried to be as morally, politically, and religiously ambiguous.

How to pick a coffee shop

So as you know coffee is a passion of mine. Being the shortest of the four guys in my family (even though I’m 6″ 2′), I’ve been told that if I didnt drink so much, I may have been the tallest. I might start a monthly thing where I do something on coffee (subjects on my previous coffee post) every month.

Everyone knows that theres a difference between Maxwell House and premium coffee. Thats not a problem, the problem is that signs outside of coffee houses aren’t clear on which they are really brewing. This blog is for those of you who have been curious about that coffee house across the street, or for those curious if you should even bother with that kiosk in the airport.

If you just want a coffee, its quick and simple to tell if its going to be quality; ask what they are brewing. Look for answers that give a specific reigon or country. Lots of roasters will buy cheap, leftover coffee from farmers and give them names like “breakfast roast”, “light roast”, or “Columbian”. Does this mean that they will be awful coffees with these names? Not necessarily, but its a good indicator. Some indicators of good coffees? Descriptions of the roasting process. “Sun Dried Kenya” or “Aged Indonesia” is a great clue that you are going to be drinking quality brew.

Ok, so size isnt everything, but if their machine looks like something you can get at wal-mart for $50.00, then it cant be a quality drink. Its true that Great espresso machines arent always huge, but honestly, most are.

Take a look around the store, and look at their menus; is it just coffee and cappuccinos? Or do they have specialties? Is the coffee from Seattle’s Best, or is it from a local roaster? Is their coffee brewed in the same kind of pot as they do at your work? Some shops just try to copy Starbucks, and offer a worse quality in the process, while others branch out and offer something new.

On that note, did you know that an independent coffee shop is the most likely business to fail within two years? If they are going to be a lasting store, then they will have to have found a way to set them apart from big chains like Starbucks. Some stores offer soup and sandwiches, others offer teas like mate (mah tay) and special chai blends, some have rice and almond milk, and others have a constant lineup of local music for you. Ask what keeps their business afloat, and figure out what makes them special.

Here’s the most important part, though. If your coffee is called “light blend”, and is brewed through a coffee maker that has “Waffle House” scratched off from the side, but turns out being your best cup of Joe ever…. Keep going. If the espresso machine only cost $20, but it’s the best latte you have had… keep ordering it. Theres no reason to be snobby about something you love, and your local coffee shop needs the business!

So go out there, and try something new. These people need your business, and won’t judge you for asking questions!

The Best of 2010

So as this year ends, we bring in a new one. Thats the way it works. I’ve never quite understood the cliche of  “ushering in the new year” cause it comes on in, like it or not.

Nevertheless, I thought it would be good to look back and reflect on some of the best times in 2010. Not all of these things happened this year, but this is the year that I found them.

This year had some big moments for me; first year anniversary with my wife, I got my first dog, I turned a quarter of a century in age, got my first blog, I got a twitter, I graduated college, I lost friends due to differences, and solidified other friendships at the same time.

Ive seen some great movies, but this list wont include just movies that came out in 2010, but movies I saw this year

Best Movies

1. Inception

2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

3. Iron Man 2

4. Hes Just Not That Into You (yeah, I saw it)


Music defines so much of who I am. I love or at least appreciate just about any kind of that I hear from any time. Its hard picking out just five for this list, but I feel pretty good about a list of music I have found this year.

Best new found artsits

1. Mumford and Sons

2. Barcelona

3. Ryan Adams and the Cardinals

4. The Black Keys

5. The Dead Weather

In Relation with music, I love live music I have been to some of the best live shows of my life this year, and I cant wat for more this new year.

1. Mutemath

2. Athlete

3. John Butler Trio

4. OK GO


I love books, but with school and such, I have had a slow year when it comes to reading.

1.The Complete Verse of Rudyard Kipling

2. Anthem by Ayn Rand

3. Lullaby by Chuck Palahinuk

4. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Steig Larsson


So I have a whole lot to be proud of this year, and I hope to have a whole lot more in the next year. I’m not big on New Years Resolutions, especially since I heard the statistic that most everyone has given up on them by the end of February. If I want to improve my life, I don’t wait till January 1st,  I start immediately. Pretty much all of these have been goals of mine ever since I graduated, so I figured that I can call them new years goals as well… So that being said, here are my goals for the year

1. Be more conscious of what I am eating and putting into my body.

2. Continue to run outside and stay in shape.

3. Become more fluent in Spanish.

4. Continue educating myself past what I already know.

5. Blog at least once a week, but try to hit as many Monday and Wednesday posts as possible.

6. Finish the rough draft of my first book and begin looking at getting it published.

2 sizes too small

Alright, so you want a feel good Christmas post? Too bad. Christmas is when the animal comes out of people, and we all start acquiring a mob mentality that leads to people being hurt, and others getting depressed.

Thats what I would have said the last few years, but this year I have sworn not to be a grinch. This post is for all of the other Grinches out there who need their heart to grow a couple of sizes.

Wow, I just threw you for another juke. I had no idea I started off so many blogs like this…

So the first thing that gets me upset about Christmas? Traffic. I mean people run red lights, hold up intersections, and will flip you off for almost anything! I mean, I cant help but get a little road rage from time to time, but the honest truth is that you have to leave your house a little earlier, plan your trips a little wiser, and make the decision that random bad drivers dont get the priviledge of ruining your Holiday.

Then theres the music. Its the same 10 songs sang 1,000 different ways, right? No! Christmas songs are a piece of history. Songs like “Joy to the World” were written in the 1700s, and they range from then to even the last ten years! Pay attention to the songs, and realize that even though some get played WAY too much, give them memories from childhood (or make new memories now) and get a little cheesy with them.

Still sick of it? Try out the soundtrack for the movie “The Holiday”. It was written by one of the best composers of our time, and it is guranteed to put chills up your arms.

People can also get nasty during the holidays. They camp out all night for the best deals, and will let no one stop them from getting everything on their list. Its quite unavoidable, to be honest. I mean whole movies are written to show how far a parent will go just to get their kid what they want for Christmas. But, before you go “Jingle All The Way” all over someone, make a point to be courteous to others. Yeah some will try to snake your parking spot, cut in line, or grab something out of your cart, but that doesnt require a fistfight to solve!

Heres the basis of it; either your Christmas holiday will be spoiled by strangers, or be enriched by friends and family. Its that simple! Be good to people, and remind them why they are supposed to be happy, and maybe you can make someone esle’s Christmas better for it.

Lastly, a shout out to my family this Christmas: I love you guys, and I’m sorry I cant come out this year. I love you and will miss you all.

There, you feel it? All you haters, Grinches, and Scrooges out there have a warm feeling in your chest. No, its not a heart attack, its your heart growing to normal size. Now get over yourselves and have a Merry Christmas, like it or not (sounds like a new song for next Christmas season).

College Life

So this past Saturday I finally graduated from college. Its been 6 years, but I have been through a change in schools, and three majors since I started in 2004.I’ve taken so many classes that at this point I think that I was about 6 credit hours away from a degree in everything-ology. I have considered dropping out twice, changing schools again, and at times even going to grad school. This post is for all of those who might want to reminisce, learn about, or even try to change how to survive college.

1. College is all about the professor. I know that you will have professors that you agree with, as well as  plenty that you hate. I had a good friend that abhorred his English professor for his ultra- liberal views. The hard part? The fact that he still had to write the guy papers, and this teacher had to aspprove his topic. What did he do? He found common ground with the guy, and wrote a paper on a topic that he saw eye to eye with him. Having a topic that interests the teacher is going to put him in a state of mind where he is willing to forgo some mistakes for the sake of something intriguing.

On the flipside, I wrote one of the best papers of my life for freshman english. We had to compare and contrast two movies, and I had to brilliant idea to use the movies Van Helsing and Underworld. I had some awesome thesis that explained how we have replaced religion with technology in comparing the two, and I was sure to bring this woman to tears as she realized that she worships her computer more than she worships her god/gods. I got a C. I was counted off for things like “too many ‘be’ verbs” and “incorrect gerund phrasing”. Turns out, she was not interested by the subject at all!

Some Professors want you to speak up and ask questions. Others want you to sit back and let them hear him/herself speak. The point is you have to find out what your professor likes, and stay on his good side. This could really mean the difference of a whole letter grade sometimes.

2. Skipping class is touchy. I know that you’re an adult now, and that no one calls your mom when you don’t show up, but there are some people who have skipping down to an art. Every time before spring break, Thanksgiving, or even the Pastafarian holiday “Talk like a Pirate Day”.

3. student loans are not free gifts

4. you can work… and overwork

5. dont be a stereotype