Wednesday, March 7, 2018

When the internet goes down

Live by the internet, die by the internet. Well, maybe that’s too dramatic a paraphrase of “live by the sword, die by the sword.” Still, when the internet goes down—as it does from extreme weather, service interruptions, or other unexplained reasons—life comes to a deadly standstill.

At least I have 4G, so my iPhone works even when I can’t. I see emails coming in, but can’t fully address the requests if they require desktop work. Sure, I can camp out with my laptop at a coffee shop, but that's often more trouble than it's worth.

I’ve learned to deal with the forced mini-vacations, but now there’s another level of anxiety to internet outages. My mother resides in a senior-living community, and my brother and I keep testing new internet-based services to keep an eye on things. 
  • One service, Nest Cam, allows a real-time look-see with streaming video.
  • Another, Alzcom, is a remotely managed calendar with interactive reminders that display on a tablet in her kitchen. This free and awesome technology answers the perennial question for people with memory issues: “What’s on my calendar today?”

  • We’ve also tried Alexa to help answer a broader range of questions, such as “What’s today’s date?” and “What time is it?” and “What’s the weather?” But Alexa isn’t always perfect, as this SNL skit so aptly demonstrates: Amazon Echo Silver.
When everything works, it’s a wonderful thing. But March nor'easters have knocked out my mom’s internet, and it will be a while before we can get it up and running again. In the meantime, there’s no streaming video, Alzcom reminders are stuck on the last date of service, and Alexa speaks unbidden to complain about being disconnected.

The suggested course of action, offered by everyone from the cable company to Nest to Alexa, is to go online and search their help pages for a fix. See the problem? Without internet, it’s kind of hard to get on the internet. While I do have access through my iPhone, navigation is both cumbersome and useless for trying to resolve a remote issue in my mom’s apartment. 

After the current nor’easter clears, I will go visit and shift into troubleshooting mode. And I will pester the service provider until everything is fixed.

The irony is that as much as I have come to rely on the internet for any and all services, I need it now more than ever for my mom, who doesn’t own a smartphone or computer. And she doesn’t have to. All these tech-heavy and interconnected services are transparent to her—that is, they are when the internet is up and running.  

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Why would you bother?

Every once in a while, I conduct what I consider a science experiment. There is no real science involved. It’s just me attempting something new, without any surety of the outcome.

Several experiments have taken place in the kitchen, as cooking is like a second language to me. I get the basics, but I’ll never be fluent. 

Among my bench tests are these:
  • Roasted peppers—Easy peasey, so they say. Ingredients? One: peppers. Process? “Blister” the peppers and let them cool. Then magic is supposed to happen, as the skins just peel away. In reality, fingers blister, pepper skins turn stubborn, and cursing ensues. My result was edible, but I spent way too much time on what is essentially a condiment. Never again.
  • Bagels—New York-style bagels are the gold standard. So what makes them different? The care put into each of three cooking steps: boiling, baking, and broiling. Some recipes leave out the last step, but broiling adds a delicious golden crisp to the crust. I’ll admit I didn’t mind the process, but buying bagels is so much easier and tastier, at least in my kitchen.
  • Wheat bread—I have come to the revelation that I will never get along with yeast. It’s too temperamental. Yeast is the Goldilocks of baking; it can’t be too hot or too cold—it has to be just right. I can’t be bothered, which is how my loaf of wheat bread became a wheat brick.
  •  Fingerless gloves—Escaping the kitchen, I turned to YouTube to learn how to knit with circular needles. Then I tackled a pair of fingerless gloves. The pattern I chose was adorable. The instructions claimed ease and simplicity. The result was wearable. Then I wore them. Word to the wise: If it’s cold enough to need gloves, you really need gloves with fingers.
Why do I keep pursuing my version of the scientific process? 
—If producing items fit for purpose is the benchmark, then I’m barely making the mark.
—If we learn more from our mistakes than successes, then I’ve earned an advanced degree.
—If the journey is truly more important than the destination, then there was value gained.

If trying something new and different is what’s important throughout life, then it certainly is worth all the bother.

Monday, February 5, 2018

How much would you pay?

Twice in recent weeks I’ve heard from organizations that want to help me sell my business. Not that AMY INK is for sale. But firms are out there encouraging me to plan my exit strategy. One asks:
  • Are you tired of the day-to-day grind of running your business?
  • Are you interested in new challenges?
  • Do you want to spend more time with your family?
If I can answer “yes” to any of these questions, it’s the start of the end. They don’t want me to risk burning out or face a declining business that hurts a final selling price. How thoughtful!

So I checked another source, “4 Signs That It’s Time to Sell Your Business.” Apparently, you’re primed to sell if:
…You’re on 4 or 5 different medications.
… The company has outgrown your skill set.
…The market might be moving against you.
…A lucrative opportunity presents itself.

With that last thought in mind: How much would you pay for AMY INK? Granted, there is nothing really to buy. It’s just me. In my home office. Tapping away on my computer. Helping clients tell their stories.

If you wanted to buy the business, would you move into my house? Use my well-worn equipment (my printer can send faxes!). Try to mimic my writing style.

I do have an exit strategy. It's just not one any outside consultant can help plan or execute. It’s me deciding when I can no longer string two thoughts together to write a cogent story.

That may not be the most profitable way to monetize what so far has been 18 successful years of AMY INK. But it works for me.
UPDATE 2/7/18: Now I'm getting followup calls from these business-sales consultants. They would be better served by doing more homework on their prospect list.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

What’s next?

3-setting seat control: warm, hot, sear.
Products often tout “New!” and “Improved!” versions of themselves. It’s the nature of marketing and commerce to always look for the next new thing to bring in revenue.

My nature is to favor reliable go-to products—things I consider tried and true. Even so, I find myself smitten by things I never knew I wanted and now don’t want to be without.

My car is a prime example.
  • I once laughed at heated seats. “I don’t drive naked, so why would I need them?” Now I know. They feel wonderful, especially on chilly days.
  • Heads-up display? Brilliant! I didn’t know this existed until I test-drove my late-model car. The information I want to see is projected onto my windshield. I can keep my eyes on the road and still have in my line of sight info on speed, navigation directions, and radio station.
  • Mastering the stick shift is a badge of honor, but I’ll take hill hold assist every time. Now there's no reason not to drive a manual transmission car. Hill hold adds the few seconds needed to go from brake pedal to gas, without fear of rolling backward when stopped on an uphill.   
Less technically oriented innovations have also captured my loyalty. Take Greek yogurt, for example. I used to live on the regular kind, with lots of sweet fruit filling on the bottom. But one bite of the creamier, protein-packed, and tastier Greek variety, and I switched for good. Most mornings I share a spoonful with the cat, who also is hooked.

I’ll share one final discovery, this one mine. Like many eureka moments, it was accidental. I woke a little groggy one morning and began pouring a glass of vanilla soy milk when I really wanted orange juice. So I decided to top off the milk with OJ and, voilĂ , I now had a Creamsicle. What could be better than mixing two tried-and-true beverages to create something even better.

No one would ever accuse me of being an early adopter of New! Improved! things. But once I stumble upon the next thing I really like, I can be the most loyal of customers.