I Just Completed The Biggest Challenge of My Life

This morning I was able to check off one of the longest running tasks on my task list. It was listed in Microsoft Outlook and Pocket Informant as "Complete BSIT from UOP." I actually finished my final class on October 11, but I had been waiting for two credits from the "Here’s To Your Health DANTES" test to register. They finally did, and I filled out my diploma application. I decided that I can now check the task off of my list even though it could be a few weeks before my degree actually comes in the mail. Over the two years that I have been working on my degree, that task has served as an anchor. For a while when I was using My Life Organized heavily, it was the top of a project tree involving several classes and sub-projects for those classes. At other times, I sat alone in my Outlook task list as a reminder of an open project. Now it is finally finished.

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How I Chose My Windows Mobile Phone

I should probably provide a wrap-up to my Pocket PC adventures from last month. To recap, my iPaq 4705 died on me suddenly. I’ve become so used to having a Pocket PC with me that I almost broke down. I acted like my head wasn’t screwed on straight. I couldn’t keep track of anything. My wife said that we didn’t have the money in our budget for a new Pocket PC, so I did the next best thing: I asked my dad if he would be willing to get me one as a graduation present. I hadn’t graduated at the time (I still haven’t but that’s another story) but I was in my final class and I was preparing to finish the program. My dad was willing to buy me one, so I went looking on Ebay. I’ve always wanted a combined Pocket PC and phone, and I found the Cingular 8125. You can read the details of that from my previous posts. I loved the phone for the 24 hours I was able to use it. The phone was shipped to me with the wrong battery, and it took five days for the correct battery to arrive. The phone had a few glitches that I was prepared to live with, but when the camera button got stuck, that was a deal killer and I sent the phone back for a refund. I borrowed my mother-in-law’s iPaq 1945 to get me by until I could find something else.

I finally settled on imagethe Pocket PC phone that I now have. It was a long decision process and I had a lot of variables to weigh. I narrowed my choices down based on price and features to the Cingular 8525 and the iPaq 6945. I finally settled on the

6945 for several reasons, one of which is that HP won a contract to supply my company with IT products and the Employee Purchase Plan offered a decent price on this phone. Both devices had limitations and complaints from users, and I had a hard time reconciling them. I spent several days wavering on my choice. I used a trip my wife needed to take to the mall to do some research. I played with the 8525 and asked questions at the AT&T store about complaints and returns. Sadly, no data was available on the 6945, nor was a demo unit available. My two year old, Caleb, and I also took an opportunity to play with an iPhone on display. It’s a very good blend of art and engineering, but for my needs I wanted a Windows Mobile phone.

I finally asked my friend Micah what he thought. Micah was sort of my mentor for computer issues. We shared an apartment for our last few years in the Navy and had a lot of fun "geeking out" on weekends. I have a lot of respect for Micah’s opinions. I chose the University of Phoenix based on his recommendation. He has a Blackjack, and said that given the choice he would take the 6945. Micah also reminded me that I am not going to find a "perfect" phone. I decided that was good enough for me, so I ordered the 6945 through the EPP page.

I’ll probably include a review later. This post is simply a wrap-up of a series of posts that I have so far left unresolved. As for my hx4705? I sent it to PDA Smart.com and found out that a component on the mainboard needed to be replaced. Total repair cost? $33 including return shipping. I can’t recommend PDA Smart enough. They bailed me out of an iPaq problem several years ago. They are competent and reasonably priced and offer all kinds of services from upgrades to repairs to parts. If you have a broken Pocket PC, contact them to see if it can be fixed.

I’ve had my 6945 for a few weeks now, and I’m happy with it. I’ve also had my 4705 back, but I haven’t found much of a use for it. I’m trying to talk my wife into taking it, but so far she’s not interested.

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How to Handle An Argumentative Person

I recently found myself in a situation facing a person who was seemingly looking for an argument. I have my own theories as to why, but I have no specific knowledge of why this person wanted to argue with me. All I know is that before I knew what was happening, I found myself under "attack" in what should have been a safe place. I didn’t know what was happening, and I lost my composure very badly. I was under a lot of strain, I was tired, and I just plain blew up in frustration at this person especially since as far as I could tell, the answer he was looking for was something we agreed on anyway. That gave him the feeling of the upper hand and he walked away believing himself to have won.

For whatever reason, some people are just looking for an argument, and you may find yourself facing down their barrel. Maybe you said something they misunderstood, maybe they didn’t agree with the way you said it, or maybe they just wanted a fight and you’re the last person in the room. In my experience, people wanting a fight will come at you hard and come at you fast, giving you little time to figure out what is going on and how to reply. Here are a few tips I’d like to share that you can follow when you find yourself in a similar situation against a contentious or argumentative person.

1) Never make assumptions

Never assume anything about this person, his or her philosophies, or position. Never. That was the first tactical mistake that I made in the situation I was in recently. I assumed based on the wording of the question that this person held a certain position. That prevented me from #2

2) Take time to understand the issue being argued

If necessary, keep asking "What do you mean by that?" Keep gathering information until you can repeat to the person the exact question that they are looking for an answer to. Before making any response at all, make sure that you clearly understand what is being asked or stated by the person. Often two people can use different definitions for the same word, so make sure that you understand theirs.

3) Verify any references

If part of the argument or question being put before you involves the quotation of reference material, if possibly, stop and look it up to verify a proper context. An interesting quote I’ve heard is "If you torture the data long enough, it will confess to anything." Make sure that any quote referenced is placed in a proper context if required.

4)Accept that there may be no way to win

Some people who are argumentative and contentious just aren’t interested in settling a dispute. It’s possible that you’re facing a person who is just looking for a fight, not a resolution. You may have to just do the best you can and walk away, or send the person away. Pride goeth before the fall… Some incidents like this are about nothing more than pride or ego. Don’t let yours get in the way.


For A Supposedly World-Class Telecommunications Company, AT&T Isn't Very Reliable

It’s 6:30 AM on Sunday. My wife forgot to pay the AT&T Wireless bill, so I thought I’d take care of it before everybody gets up for church. I log into AT&T’s website to find "We’re sorry, this feature is not available right now." That is to say, their entire account management system is not available right now. I decide to call instead in the hopes of getting this taken care of. Guess what? The customer service rep can’t even take a payment because the systems are updating.

This isn’t the first time. Often, when I log onto the AT&T page, I find some areas unavailable. Can’t this world-wide business run a backup server?

AT&T may boast about the fewest dropped calls, but I wonder where they stand on CONNECTED CALLS. My wife is often told by people that they tried to call her however; her phone never rang and no missed calls show up. I’m not sure if I get unconnected calls. Often my wife will have voice mail messages from up to two weeks in the past pop up on her phone out of nowhere.

Sometimes I think it would be worth the $175 per line fee to just leave AT&T. The only problem is, in a market oligopoly, where would we go? T-Mobile at least sounds friendly and usable, but most of what I hear says that they aren’t reliable. Considering the reliability we’ve come to know at AT&T, that scares me. I’m honestly not very impressed with Verizon’s prices, and I never really have figured out the point to Sprint.

As Avery Brooks said in my favorite IBM commercial "It’s the year 2000, and there are no flying cars. Where is my flying car?" I say it’s the year 2007, and there are no reasonably priced and reliable telecommunications services. Where is my reasonably priced and reliable telecommunication service? I was promised a reasonably priced and reliable telecommunications service.

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Darn It Jim Final: Aetna Finally Paid

I’m going to tie up some loose ends before I move on to other topics. As part of my "Darn it Jim" series regarding a 2 year long struggle I had with Aetna and Laurel Pediatrics to get a bill for one visit paid, I’m now posting the final entry. Aetna finally paid, although it took them several weeks after finally approving the bill to actually pay it. I’m really annoyed that I had to literally stand over the customer service representatives shoulders to settle this issue.