Life in General

Musings About Life

Businesses I use Kudos – April 2013

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With the economy the way it is… I can feel the crunch hurting businesses… some cut frills some seem to cut service or staff quality. Given some of the bad choices being made, there are a few businesses I want to recommend.

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance & Virgina Mason

My wife was diagnosed with breast cancer this winter.  We are blogging about it at www.boobsofsteel.com   If you read the blog you will find that Virgina Mason’s parking acted as a distracting nuisance I could blow off steam with and we have some communication issues with the cancer team early on, but looking back and reading what others around the nation have had to go through… I am in awe of the speed we were given access to world class testing and diagnosis and from what I can tell the overall treatment plan is very much what we will be getting at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.  VM has gotten many national awards and I see some very well defined business process applied to their medicine that streamlines visits etc.  but I never saw anything that skimped on the medicine.

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance is an interesting beast.  The are very proactive in their marketing and the only complaints I read about them is that they are proactive in billing.  To be honest that is what keeps a business going in this economy.  But I have to say that our cancer care team and our visits there are always just full of compassion, clear communication and respect.  I know there is a pervasive idea that health-care should be free and no one should profit from it.  Frankly when your wife has breast cancer, health care should be excellent and whatever motivates the creation of better care is fine by me.  My wife’s cancer appeared from nowhere.. less than 12 months after her annual mammogram and doctor’s breast exam a baseball-sized tumor was removed.  The typical waits to see doctors and get tests in places like Canada would have killed her.  I  have a real respect for SCCA, its run like a successful tech company, using marketing, partnerships and service to offer great heath-care for one of the best cancer care systems on the planet.  No free or government run clinic could match what they are doing, I thank God for them often.

MXGuarddog

From cancer to SPAM. Working a contract at Microsoft currently and having worked on the Forefront team, I wanted to use the MS service to filter spam on my small home email server, we just moved to Comcast Xfinity service and they block all port 25 traffic.  The Microsoft Exchange Online Protection service is well priced for what we needed, but only works on port 25.. so I had to walk away.  Google has pretty much ended their Postini service forcing you to buy into Google Apps to access the service.  I was almost to the point of moving our family email system to Office 365 and may still someday.. Then I found MXGUARDDOG.

Can a free spam filter for email servers work?  After several weeks I am pleased.  There is not a lot adjustments to the SPAM picking functions to change the filtering level.  But it seems to do well and there are easy to use tools to white-list and black-list senders, domains and IPs.  You can have tagged spam delivered so your email rules can collect it or have it kept on the MXGD server and a report is emailed to each user with easy click-to-deliver the rare false positives.  They replaced my MX back-up service too for the nearly free price.  The have four MX servers, only one showed up on one SPAM blacklist service (probably for bounced messages. some spam black-list services are overly aggressive) The rest of the servers are clean and well run.  So far I have had to tell my server not to block their reports and have had to domain white-list two vendors we subscribe to that use ConstantContact.com.

You can buy credits for a small fee or get credits for placing a link on a web site.  I am more than happy to promote a well run business with a great service on my own website.

Seattle Coffee Gear

Turns out something on my birthday list for my wife, was also something she wanted. S0 we bought as a mutual anniversary gift: a Breville BES840XL Espresso Machine and a Breville grinder.  Seattle Coffee Gear has a top notch website, good use of web and social media and an out of the way but well run local show room near our home. Their video reviews are both fun and very useful in choosing both large ticket gear and accessories.

If you love coffee and want to buy gear from people who test and know what they sell… go to Seattle Coffee Gear.  Sometimes their prices are competitive and sometimes less so.  But they are not chasing the discount customer, they are serving the customer who appreciates passion and expertise in coffee making.  They not only sold me a great machine, when I had problems and I went back.  They moved a floor machine to a place we could test it and practice the right way to use our new machine.  Their 15 minutes of customer service after the sale was the difference between us being frustrated with a new machine and loving it!

Buca di Beppo

Our family has been going to Bucca for years.. and you can watch how the crowds change and how they adapt.  I would say that based on the open seats at dinner last Friday and the light traffic 2-3 days a week when going to work,  we have already entered another bad recession… When things are good Bucca is fun, has good food and is filled.  When things get tight it is a luxury.  I was there for a dad and daughter night.. since my wife is out of town.  The food and service is good.  They have even added the idea of introducing staff by name as we pass.  To save costs and I expect turn tables a bit faster, they went from the fancy ring bound many page menu to a large single fold menu where you can see everything.  You lose the great images of the food, but the menus are clearly lower cost to change and produce and it does make choosing the entire meal easier.  For a company to improve service and reduce costs where few will miss it makes Buca di Beppo one of my smart business stars.

 

Beware “Oops! Sorry” Pricing

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I am not giant on conspiracy theories.  I tend to think that most of what happens that is bad is the organic result of humans being part of the process.  As a matter of fact there are times that I would find a grand, global conspiracy a bit comforting, because it might mean someone knows how to keep the whole “thing” from melting down, falling apart or just not reaching the worst case.

However, I am a firm believer in watching for patterns.  Is is possible that 90% of the programmers writing computer systems that manage inventory and pricing them accidentally only put in bugs that charge me more?  Could be, but I doubt it.  How often do you get a better price at the check-out scanner than was posted on the shelf?  How often does an error save you money on your utility bill, vs charge overcharge you? Continue reading

Inception: The Clue About The Ending I See No Discussion Of

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This whole post is a :: Spoiler :: if you have not seen the film “Inception”.  This is not a review. You have been warned

It has been a lean year for us.  So finally we watch “Inception” on Blu-ray from Netflix.  My first response at the ending was to turn to my wife and say “There is no way the people who stand in the ’10 items or less line’ with 15-20 items have a clue about what just happened.”  I loved the layered time-lines and the question which came very early for me.  Is this all just a dream. 

The whole film is uses “jump edits” to keep some level of discontinuity.  It was clear to me from almost the start that we were at least meant to feel like we were in a dream. My assumption was that we were heading towards a “Sixth Sense” ending.  Instead with got a “Total Recall” ending.  I am coming to the same conclusion I did then.  The movie ends with the hero still in a dream of his creation.

Nolan may never tell because he designed it to end that way.  Or did he?  I was also sure that there was an alternate ending that didn’t work, or maybe three alternate endings.  Each one defining the “truth” about the film’s view of reality.  Instead we were left looking at the spinning top.  But there are clues in the film that for me point to a real answer embedded in the film to be found.

Continue reading