Quick Updates

DSC00684.jpgIn October, I went to Los Angeles (specifically, IVCF’s Campus-by-the-Sea) for a Faculty Ministry Leadership Team meeting, and much busyness has occupied my time since then. A few quick updates:

DSC00817.jpg 1) For Halloween, Agatha was Little Red Riding Hood and Ginger was the Big Bad Wolf. Thus, it follows that I was the Woodcutter and Elizabeth was Grandma. Needless to say, we were a huge hit.

2) We have sold our house at 29 Clay St. (though we have occupancy until the end of the year), and we are now looking for a new home in Northern Kentucky that will accommodate our growing family, my work-from-home situation, and our values (community, hospitality, missional family life). Elizabeth is growing tired of my pipe-dream of building a small backyard studio for a home office.

3) I purchased a new Macbook, on which I am writing this blog post. Ever since my Commodore 64 gave up the ghost, I have been a PC user. So far, it has been revelation, with only a few hiccups (thanks to Paul for helping me get my Macbook to communicate with my church’s projector at the National Missionary Convention!). I have been relearning all of the shortcuts and hotkeys that I used without thinking, and I’ve been exploring the new world of software available to me. (I’m writing this on MarsEdit, for instance.)

4) In all of my spare time, I have taken up fantasy basketball. I am far more disappointed than I ever imagined I would be that Gilbert Arenas is out 3 months with a bum knee.

5) Our 4-year-old Agatha is becoming quite a shutterbug.



Jobs of the future, #1: Online Community Organizer

A while back, Seth Godin wrote about a “job of the future” – Online Community Organizer. It struck as very similar to what my role with the Emerging Scholars Network could be: helping to facilitate community and common goals among a large, dispersed, and diverse group of ESN members.

Here’s Seth’s original post:

Seth’s Blog: Jobs of the future, #1: Online Community Organizer

How Do I Earn My Keep?

Yesterday, a person asked me how InterVarsity staff (like myself) are funded. In his words, he contrasted two models: what he called a “mission field” model of “not muzzling the ox” and being supported by donations, vs. a “tentmaker” model where I “earn my keep” by being paid for the work I produce. It was an honest question, and I think he was primarily trying to understand how InterVarsity works. But it’s a good question, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot this morning.

My position (ESN Associate Director) is funded by those individuals and churches who share my concern and vision for the university, and who want to partner with me financially and prayerfully in this ministry. I believe that this is a Biblical model (not “the” Biblical model, though), and I also think it makes sense in a general, nonprofit sort of way. When I’m wearing my other hat, I work with several hundred Greater Cincinnati nonprofits, so I think I have a good perspective on the nonprofit world. Continue reading

That's What Friends Are For

So, last night, our good friends Bryan and Kelley Brandeberry invited us to Pizza Hut, but we couldn’t go because we already had some steaks defrosting and were low on cash in our eating out envelope. We, in turn, invited them to the Erlanger library’s Family Fun Night (clowns + water balloons + popsicles = fun!). We took a long time walking to the library, never saw them, and just assumed we missed them or they decided not to come.

We returned home to find the following message on our answering machine:

Hi guys. We could not make it to the library because of a long and very funny story that happened to us at Pizza Hut. We will tell you all about it later. But as a result, we received a free ham and sausage pizza. Which is now in your fridge. Enjoy!

I opened the refrigerator door. Lo and behold, a free ham and sausage pizza had magically appeared on the middle shelf.

That’s what friends are for: free pizza. God bless America.

Wow – I love Netflix! (They paid me $15 to say that.)

It’s so rare when a company seems to do everything right.  I mean, it’s totally shocking – that a large, national corporation appears to operate in a logical, friendly, dare-I-say wise manner.  Yet every interaction I’ve had with Netflix has gone swimmingly.  Including today.

For 4th of July, we went down to my parents’ house.  Elizabeth’s mom was gracious enough to let us borrow a portable DVD player so that the kiddos would not get overly bored on the 6-hour car ride.   Among the movies we brought were one of Agatha’s favorites, The Wizard of Oz, and an movie borrowed from Netflix, Alice in Wonderland.  During the trip, I put the Wizard DVD into the Alice Netflix envelope, just as a way of keeping it safe temporarily.  When we returned home, Elizabeth took the Alice envelope, logically thinking it contained Alice, and mailed it back to Netflix.  Imagine her surprise when she opened the DVD player and found…Alice.  Doh!  We had mailed Netflix our own DVD.

Today, I called customer service.   For complete transparency, I was on hold for over 10 minutes, but I was at my desk, so I just put the phone on speaker and did some work.  After I explained the situation, here’s how the conversation went.

ME: “…and so we sent back our personal copy of Wizard of Oz by mistake.”

NETFLIX GUY: “Classic movie!”

ME: “Yeah.”

NG: “Did you get an email from us?”

ME: “No.”

NG: “Oooh – that’s a problem.  See, they take out every DVD from its sleeve, and if they had caught the mistake, you would have gotten an email.   But if it’s a movie we stock, then they would have assumed it was one of ours and just put it back into circulation.  I’m afraid you’re not getting in back.  I’m sorry.”

ME: “Sure, I understand.”

NG: “Well, seeing as how it wasn’t Netflix’ responsibility…”

ME: “Yeah?”

NG: “…I’m afraid that the best that we can do is…”

ME: “Yeah?” [expectng him to say some corporate version of “losers weepers”]

NG: “…offer you either a $15 refund on your credit card or give you a $15 credit on your next billing cycle.”

ME: “What?”

NG: “Actually, I take that back.  It would be a $14.99 credit.  So your next bill will only be $3.  You can use the $15 to buy a new copy of Wizard of Oz.  Try Amazon.  I bet you can get one for only seven or eight bucks on there.”

ME: “Really?”

NG: “Yeah, they’re really reliable.  They have everything.”

ME: “No, about the credit.”

NG: “Oh – sure.  It will show on your next bill.  Can I do anything else for you today, Mr. Hickerson?”

ME: “What do I do with Alice in Wonderland?”

NG: “Just wrap it up in a paper towel, put a Post-it note on it with your email address, and mail it back in one of your other envelopes.  We’ll take it from there.”

ME: “Thank you!”

Then, less than 15 minutes later, I got an email asking me if I was satisfied with my customer service experience.  I am mightily, mightily impressed.  (And, of course, I discovered that Netflix is a BBB member to boot.)

For another, less direct thing that Netflix is doing well, check out the coverage of the Netflix Prize.