Thursday, August 27, 2009

Melissa and Chris

This blog post is LONG overdue, as it's now been two months since the wedding... I mean seriously, only ONE post for the month of August? Well the good news is I've been out gathering material so I can publish many many posts in the coming months.

Thousands of years from now society may revolve around the scriptures known as "Small Planet Big World" so it must be recorded here that this event took place and we saw that it was good.

Chris "The Gack" Gackenheimer has been a part of the Barton clan for many years now. I can't even remember when I was first introduced to him, but he's been along to a few family reunions and he's been through all the requisite hazing rituals. It was not any big surprise when the wedding was announced, and some might suggest that such an event is almost anti-climactic. I want to put any such rumors to rest right now, this was an event to remember.

On June 27th, 2009, my ONLY female Barton cousin got married in St. Louis. The wedding was at Mad Art Gallery, which used to serve as a police station and jail. The weather was sunny, clear, and HOT. We stood outside for a few minutes and took pre-wedding photos while waiting for the ceremony to begin.

The temperature was near 100 degrees F, but small hand-held fans were given out to each guest. The ceremony was very nice but quick. After the vows we took a couple pictures and then went inside to enjoy the reception and air conditioning.

The reception was really fantastic. The hors d'oeuvres were so good I couldn't stop eating the bacon-wrapped dates! We had some drinks and mingled with the family for a while before dinner was served. After dinner, there were a few speeches. Melissa's father gave a speech that was moving and funny. Chris' friend read an IM transcript from the days when Chris first met Melissa! Then we danced until they kicked us out. They might have kicked us out because they needed to close... or it might have been my dancing... we'll never know.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Saint Louis Science Center

St. Louis has this awesome park that runs through the middle called Forest Park. Straddling the southeastern edge of the park is one of America's top five science museums, the St. Louis Science Center. The Science Center campus is made up of four buildings. The James S. McDonnell Planetarium in Forest Park, a newer building (the main building) across Interstate 64, the Exploradome next to the main building, and the Taylor Community Science Resource Center. The Exploradome is actually supported by air, so it's like being inside a giant balloon. I wasn't able to get a really good picture of the outside of the planetarium, so I'm borrowing this one from the Wikimedia Commons, a repository of public domain media.

That is the exterior of the James S. McDonnell Planetarium, a hyperboloid structure by American architect Gyo Obata. Its fantastic eye-catching form hints at what can be found inside. My brother Robbie and I went inside the museum and were immediately wowed by a giant working contraption that whisked colored balls around on rails. This was fun to watch for a while before we bought our tickets and went into the museum.


The museum has lots of hands-on demonstrations of scientific principals along with traditional exhibits. We wandered through the main building before grabbing some food for lunch. After lunch we walked into the inflated "exploradome" and then across the skybridge to the planetarium. In the skybridge, we put together an arch... harder than it looks!! After taking our time looking at some space-race era artifacts, we went back to the hotel in Kirkwood.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Marshall Field and Customer Service

I wrote this blog article for work and decided to post it here as well.

Summer is always an exciting time in Chicago! There are street festivals every weekend, fireworks at the lakefront, and events in the parks almost non-stop. I live in the city of Chicago giving me convenient access to a variety of museums, shopping, and the lakefront. After living in this city for over eight years, I'm still a tourist at heart, taking every opportunity to soak in its sights and sounds.

Most people don't know this, but on the seventh floor of the Macy's department store on State Street in downtown Chicago, there is a museum that is devoted to the legacy of Marshall Field and the history of Chicago. Macy's, from New York, bought Marshall Field and Company department stores in 2005, but they put a number of old Field’s catalogs and artifacts on display to pay tribute to their history.

While walking through the exhibit, it's hard not to make the connection between Marshall Field’s and the success of Chicago. Several factors conspired to make Field the greatest merchant in Chicago, but none more important than customer service. When Marshall Field spoke of customer service, he spoke about going the extra mile, going above and beyond what's required, treating the customer like family. He would give customers anything they wanted and promised money back if they were not satisfied.

"Right or wrong, the customer is always right!" - Marshall Field

During last month’s PFLC, we were able to enjoy lunch with some of our customers. I was fortunate enough to sit with a buyer from Rockwell Automation, but everyone we spoke with echoed the same thing: Newark stands for superior customer service. What we sell is not just electronic components. We sell service that is unparalleled in the industry. In the past, I've had concerns that our prices are not always competitive, but my concerns were laid to rest by heaps of praise for our superior service. Our Rockwell buyer said, "We are happy to pay extra for the customer service we receive."

All of us deal with customers, even if it isn't immediately apparent. In GIS the customer is on the other side of the screen when we deploy new functionality our competitors don’t offer or make the website faster for our customers to quickly find the components they need. These customers deserve the same exceptional service our Rockwell Buyer spoke so highly of, and we aim to provide it. We spend time tracking down performance bottlenecks, constantly striving to improve customer experience around the globe while delivering the latest features to keep ahead of the competition. As long as we are working for the customer, we can never go wrong!

"Good will is the one and only asset that competition cannot undersell or destroy." - Marshall Field