Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Choices, Decisions, and Service...

Okay, it's time to admit something - when I'm leading worship, I sometimes forget that I have these pieces of steel and bronze underneath my hands that are measured in decimal points of thickness.  I just kind-of get a little happy, and start hammering away on a sliver of metal that (with a different consistency) would be used for sewing tiny stitches.  Hi, my name is Adam, and I'm a Heavy-Handed Guitar Player.  I have a tendency to lose focus on playing while I play AND sing, and my guitar tends to pay the price.

A guitar for me has always been a tool.  I'm just not the kind of guy who longs to have 'that' guitar because of the particular wood its made of, or how nice it fits, or anything else like that.  I've only recently in my life realized the importance of 'the action', or how different woods and body style cause different intonations.  I've not been real particular about the tool, just the way it works.  I am particular about some tools - my hammer, for instance.  I don't like a fiberglass handle, and I don't like a light-weight hammer, either.  A metal shaft with the right amount of rubber grip, 16oz head... and I've been using this same hammer for 8 years.  I've never had to change grips or heads, or anything else.  (Yes, dear reader, I build things sometime too.)

Over the last six weeks, I've had to change strings on my guitar five times.  I took it in 3 weeks ago and had it serviced by someone I trust.  It just doesn't seem to be able to keep a set of strings on it... so this week I went searching for a new guitar.  And I learned something about Choices, Decisions, and Service in the process.

First, choices.  Once upon a time, there was Martin, Taylor, Yamaha, and Cheap (with someone else's brand on it).  Now, everyone and their brother has a guitar out.  Brands that I've never heard of before, but very nice.  McPherson is one that I'll check out later in life (low-end guitars in that line are $3000), and I'll have it built-to-order with just the right wood, and just the right pickups, and just the right action...and then I'll probably keep it in a glass case, 'cause I won't want to play it.

Seriously, there are so many, many brands of guitar out there, how can you choose?  You can't order one of each, and play them all!  What you CAN do is the reason this falls into the domain of the Worship Geek - look it up online.

One of the things I've learned over the years can be summed up like this - if someone has a good experience with an item or store, they will tell a few close friends.  If someone has a bad experience, they will stop strangers on the street to tell them.  And so it is with reviews online.  Take them with a grain of salt - if someone has a bad experience, they get online and review the item with a rant ("this is the biggest piece of junk, and you're a loser if you buy it").  If someone has a good experience, though, and they take the time to write about it, then you know it's really good -or they're getting paid!

The best review collection I've found is at one place - Amazon.  They sell more types of items than anyone except eBay, and there's a place for reviews on all of them.  So, when you begin to choose, read reviews, and take them 'with a grain of salt'.

Now, for a guitar, the only way to make a real decision is to play it.  It deserves travel time, and some extra ears.  So for my journey, I took the most honest people I know - my kids.  They will say stuff like 'that one sounds good' or 'that one's ugly' or 'that one sounds awful, daddy!'

Thankfully, there is a store near me that allows me to play many different guitars, and see for myself.  So off we went to Tallahassee and Guitar Center to make a decision.  A decision crafted by the feel and sound, weighted with the listening of extra ears, and balanced by the reading of online reviews.  But...I found that because of the kind of service this place has, my decision doesn't have to be the final one!

I came home with a great guitar.  It sounds pretty good acoustically, and at the writing of this, I haven't plugged it in to the system in the worship center to see how it is there.  I have a rehearsal tonight that will let me get a chance at a work-out on it.  Thanks to great customer service, if I get in there and don't like the sound, I can bring it back, and trade for another one.  Now, try doing that at your local car dealer, or appliance store!  I've heard of very few appliance stores that take back a unit because someone didn't like it, and I've NEVER heard of a car dealership that would take a car or truck back because someone didn't like it!  But Guitar Center (insert shameless plug here) tells me if I don't absolutely love this guitar, they'll take it back and let me choose another to try. Cool, huh?!?

So, dear reader, Choices, Decisions, Service.  What does that teach anyone else?  Well, hopefully, from my experience, you will have learned -
1. Find what you need (tech, instrument, music, etc), and begin to narrow your choices based on the response of the marketplace.  Capitalism is alive and well, and running headlong into the future on the Internet.
2. Make a decision based on personal experience and trusted voices, trying out a few of the things you've narrowed your choices to.
3. Find a place with great service to purchase from.  There is no substitute for service, but there aren't many places that provide it these days.  Find one, and stick with them.  I've found a few, and they always get my business AND my recommendation.

Until next time...

Monday, October 10, 2011

There Is No Free Candy From The Apple Parade...

This is a continuation of a post I did on Facebook.  I felt this needed a bit more than I normally put on these things, so I reopened my blog to yell from the rooftops.  Now, this is not meant to be mean to FB Friends who have already 'shared' the link... actually, I should say thanks.  You alerted me to something to warn everyone about.  Apple is not giving away iPads in memory of Steve Jobs.

I'm sorry folks.  I think Steve Jobs was a great innovator, and re-creator.  He was able, with the help of his team at Apple Inc., to take things that were 'ok' like MP3 players and computers and make user-friendly devices that now we cannot seem to live without (AKA iPhone, and MacBooks).  He will be missed, and I for one wish I had the chance to meet him.  Hopefully, I would have had the boldness to ask about his eternal soul...

Now, to the soap-box du jour.  There are no free iPads, iPhones, MacBook Pros, MacBook Airs, etc. given away on Facebook, or by emailing everyone on your list.  Apple has a VERY strict policy governing giving away items like that.  They have to follow their own policies in this regard, too.  Even Rush Limbaugh (who I've personally heard give away about 50 iPads) has to PURCHASE the ones he gives away.

Okay, I did a quick Google Search of the site that was shared recently, and I'll break this down as simply as possible to explain what I found.

First, a little technology education: An IP address is a set of numbers you would type in if we didn't have these cool 'domain names' like "Google.com" or "Facebook.com".  They look like this:

That number is an actual IP address for Google.  Now, Google is so MASSIVE, they have 1,785 IP addresses, and when you type 'Google.com' you get sent to one of them.  Apple also has between 1500-2000 IP addresses pointing people to the right place when they type in 'apple.com' or 'iCloud.com', etc.
It would seem that major corporations have large groups of IP's, right?

So what did my Google Search tell me? Well, this 'my.ipadgiving.***' is at the same IP as: whoiskimkardashian.***, advocaredistributors.***, wheretofindjobsonline.***, emergencydentalnetwork.***,  Ipadlimit.***, hookingupsite.***, mycampingsupplies.***, and at least 17 other hosts! (None of which are owned by Apple Inc., BTW)
(oh, the *** is there because Blogger blocks the post when the URL is there because the site contains MALWARE!)

Sorry, folks.  There is an Apple Parade going on right now - The co-founder and former CEO is gone, and they're getting TONS of publicity.  The iPhone 4S sold 1 million units in about 4 hours.  But they are not throwing out any candy from this parade.  Now, if you happen to be close to where a new Apple Store is opening, get in line on opening day, and you'll get a t-shirt.  Get one for me too, okay?