Wednesday, 23 December 2009

What does the letter P stand for?

For the past 5 days, TOH has been having trouble with the Norton AntiVirus Helpdesk.  It had gotten to the point that it is so bad it's started affecting me.  So of course I had to blog about it.  Because yes, I am going somewhere with my (seemingly) disjointed rants.

TOH's computer woes started when a worm got past Norton AntiVirus' version 2.  Which necessitated a call to their Helpdesk; a techie comes along, sorts it out and all is supposed to be well.  And in a few hours the problems start again.  TOH's computer starts running slower then stops dead.  So the calls to the Helpdesk start again.  13 calls later, TOH has accumulated 10 priority numbers, spoken to 13 techies, repeated the case history 13 times, and seen the computer die each time.  Techies went into TOH's registry and modified it, then suggested TOH upgrade to version 3 and taken TOH's money for it.  This is where good faith and desperation can be the undoing of you.  Because after AV v3 went in, the shit really hit the fan.

Now several days and daily phone calls later, TOH's computer is worse off than when the first call to the Helpdesk was made.  The techies started suggesting it was due to clashes with other software on the computer, so they started uninstalling other stuff.  The problem persisted and the case was passed up to the 'elite team' who were apparently defeated by it all.  Because in the end, they started telling TOH that it wasn't a Norton problem.  Never mind TOH's numerous reiterations that there were never any software clashes with the older version of Norton AV.

The long & short of it?  TOH manages to speak to a manager who says the same thing; essentially, it's not Norton's problem.  No matter that a virus got past their AntiVirus software, no matter that their support team had a hand in disabling a computer; they simply said, oh well, it's not our fault, guv, you'll have to sort it out yourself now - and walk away.

No mention of apology for the inability to resolve an issue (because they refused to acknowledge it).  No mention that they took somebody's money for software that isn't usable or even the offer of a refund.  No mention of having taken someone's time up - because most nights TOH was on the phone to them until 03:00 AM, which seriously screwed up my sleep patterns.  But that isn't Norton's problem, is it?

I am accepting of human fraility.  I can understand not being able to solve every problem in the world.  But do you have to pretend it isn't there?  Feign having had no hand in exacerbating a situation?  Wouldn't it be better to accept defeat gracefully and try to placate the customer somehow?  Because turning around at this point and acting like it's the customer's fault is only going to piss them off even further.

And while I may have no problem with placing technical support services in areas where costs are low, I have every issue with Helpdesk personnel who are (a) supercilious, (b) do not listen to and talk over the customer while they are explaining the problem, and (c) do not man up and acknowledge their shortcomings and don't even make any concessions to the damage left in their wake.  That sums up as unhelpful and a shitty attitude in my book.  I understand that they may be faced with a lot of customers who are barely computer literate, but that does not mean that ALL their customers are in the same boat.  And even then, so what?  Does that justify giving people attitude?  Isn't there a clue in the word 'HELPdesk'??

What they don't seem to realise is that theirs is essentially a customer-facing role.  They are the voice of Norton AntiVirus that I have indavertently been listening to for the past 5 days.  Most companies may not have a face anymore in these days of remote working, but their employees are still the embodiment of their company values. 

And this time, the embodiment of Norton AntiVirus has demonstrated that Norton only wants our money but doesn't give a shit about me or TOH.  Symantec, your values suck.  Ease of doing business with you?  A big fat ZERO.

So in this case, the letter P could stand for.... plonkers?  Phucking passholes?

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Borrowed Musings, #1: Me, me, me and mine

Reading over @bonsaibanter's Tweets (or Twitterings, whichever term you'd prefer to use - most likely neither) reminded me of conversations I've had with Teacher-san on the differences between the philosophies that drive Eastern and Western Art.  Of course these are gross generalisations that I put down here, and I'm sure someone will call to my attention that to every rule there is an exception.  So, point taken - I'm not stating any rules here.

Teacher-san's guideline is to '...see how the tree wants to grow and work with that, not against it'.  His observation was that in Japanese bonsai, the tree is the most important part of the creative work; the artist takes second place.  Essentially he is the temporary vessel charged with the care of this particular tree during his lifetime.  It's pretty much an accepted fact that - unless he buggers it up completely - the tree will outlive him and pass on to the hands of another artist who will go on to leave his imprint on the tree.  And so on ad infinitum.

Western Art tends to be primarily about the artist showcasing himself and his talent, so the artist's work would tend to be a statement of how creative / clever / avant-garde  he is.  I think this outlook spills over into Western hobbies (like bonsai), especially when there is a clash of me, me, me's.  And then it becomes all-out war.

@bonsaibanter wondered why '...the gentle pursuit of bonsai attracts so many negative people. Perhaps it is easier to be destructive than constructive which is a contradiction really seeing that creativity lies at the heart of bonsai.  Or perhaps it is merely human nature and this behaviour occurs in all types of hobby groups.  Perhaps bonsai just attracts stressed out people who then vent their frustrations on those around them.'

There's a lot of truth in those observations, IMHO.  What I do wonder though, is - it's a frickin' HOBBY, dudes!  Is it worth ruining friendly relations for?  Get a life.

Borrowed Musings, #2: Egos and Agendas

This phrase stuck in my head during a talk with another bonsai buddy on the turmoil surrounding British bonsai at the moment.  I claim no originality on this turn of phrase whatsoever.  That belongs to my mate.

But it does describe what to me seems to be the Number 2 Root of All Evils in the 21st century (the love of money being the Biblical Number 1, in case the allusion slips you by).  Especially in places in the West where the social structure can preclude the need for an income for those who wish to milk it in that way.  But let's not go down that route...

So where am I going with these musings?  Once upon a time, I would've expected that the law of the jungle ended within the workplace; one could then go home and de-stress with a nice cuppa (or a G&T even) and possibly get away from it all with a nice, creative hobby like painting or bonsai.  Not anymore.  The cutthroat attitude now extends to supremacy in the hobbysphere, I guess.  Or must one now reign supreme over everything - the hobbies, the kids, the in-laws, the pets, the golf buddies?  Or else, what?  A loss of face, a drastic decline in self-actualisation? 

So simplistically speaking - could this have something to do with compensating for the loss of status in the workplace?  Or similar?  Now that could lead to another random musing, like, should retirement be banned altogether as being hazardous to your neighbour's health and well-being?  Except that, I know lots of retirees who do bonsai, and not all of them are striving to climb up any status ladder of any bonsai-ic description.  Or perhaps psychological profiling should be done before people are allowed to leave the workplace?  Sounds like a really unpopular platform to me.....

But... what's wrong with having an ego?

Nothing really, as far as I'm concerned.

In fact, it would be really worrying if one didn't have one, I suspect.

But whatever happened to the win-win situations and the not treading on other people's toes?  Or the 'do unto others what you would have them do unto you' sort of deals? Don't those count for anything anymore?

Friday, 4 December 2009

Thought #1

While organising my thoughts on my RantyRantyRant (should I brand it Triple R?), it occurred to me that 'things' are very easy to break.  Like dropping glasses or plates. 

More 'nebulous things', like interpersonal relationships, take a longer time to break - these are sort of a cumulation of incidents that build one on top of another.  And when the straw hits the camel's back, it breaks anyway.  As broken as plates. 

Sometimes, broken 'things' are easier to mend.  On the other hand, who wants to eat off plates glued together?

But mending more 'nebulous things', like interpersonal relationships?  In my experience, this often happens as the result of either a lot of time, an extreme amount of drama, or both.  And who in the world likes drama?

* Shudder *

Thought #2

So broken 'things' don't always get mended because it's become cheaper to replace them.  Unless we're talking priceless antiques.

But what about broken 'nebulous things' (yep, still thinking interpersonal relationships) - since these aren't priceless antiques and since we tend to avoid drama at all costs, do they just sort of get left alone to fester?  In the hope that time heals all wounds? 

Or more to the point, in the hope that people will forget and move on, as they often do.

My feeling has always been, it's the coward's way out to rely on the shortness of people's memory.  Grow a pair and admit your shortcomings, dammit.  And fix things.

Interpersonal or otherwise.

And this proves what?

That I can string more than one thought together, of course. 


And as @bonsaibanter told me today, it's all a question about cost and how much we value things. 

Interpersonal or otherwise.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

The Calm before the Storm

This here is an unhappy bunny getting ready to give a good rant.  But before I incinerate anyone, I may as well break up the multitudinous lines of text with a few pretty pics.

One of several Camellias in the garden that we will never convert into a bonsai.  Why?  Check out the size of its leaves and the flower.  Not unless the bonsai is going to be 4-foot tall.  And we already have one of those (and no, that bonsai is not a Camellia, it's a yamadori Scots Pine).  AFAIK, nothing will reduce the size of that flower - no matter how small the pot you put it in, no matter how little food you give it.  And if you are starving your bonsai you ought to be ashamed of yourself.  (Although I suppose we could get into a technical discussion about whether plants really 'eat' or not....)

And on the other end of the scale, here's a 2-year old Blackberry (Rubus fructicosus) accent plant that self-seeded itself in the garden (yes, thank you blackbirds) and is about 3 in / 18 cm including the pot.

OK, so the lay-out artist in me is satisfied.  Back to my fuming and fulminating in my corner here....