Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Merry Christmas Bashing Alternatives

Usually about this time of the year we see a flurry of radical religious nuts donning their normal defensive posture of attacking anyone that fails to use the words, “Merry Christmas” in favor of “Happy Holidays,” or some other phrase. This time of the year many are overly sensitive to the words that people speak and make severe judgments on their spiritual worth, based on simple vocabulary. I can recall when the word “Xmas” was the final confirmation that Christ was officially “Xed” out of the season. Later in life I learned the historic fact that the Greek letter “Chi” was simply an abbreviated “C,” which still stood for Christ. So Xmas is no different than any other abbreviation or acronyms such as WWJD, PYW or even the ancient Ichthys (ΙΧΘΥΣ) fish that you see on the back of some cars.

This season seems to be a bit different, however, as I see a lot of businesses using the “Merry Christmas” phrase. I was just shopping at WGs and the cashier actually wished me a “Merry Christmas,” and this has been happening in many stores where I’ve been shopping. What’s up with this?

Rather than immediately assuming that the world has turned its faith-ear toward our creator, my hunch is that with all of the infuriated (and many times wealthy) religious zealots, the marketing departments decided that to re-introduce this phrase would be a huge and positive marketing strategy, not cow-towing to those that may be offended. It’s a simple matter of statistics and once one business goes down this path, then the others must follow. Just go to your local mall and you’ll see many businesses following suit.

Enter “Merry Christmas” again.

So assuming that this is at least a partial explanation regarding why we’re hearing more “Merry Christmas’,” it begs the question, ‘what are the radical fundamentalists going to gripe about during this Christmas season?’ Here are some Holiday suggestions:

•Admittedly, this assumed marketing strategy has not been universally adopted so there still is room for chastising those businesses that still do not embrace the “Christmas” words, so there’s still some “Happy Holiday” bashing that is available.

•Another griping option would be to attack the Salvation Army’s bell ringers that clearly are a distraction when going into retail stores. They are noisy and are just after your money. I never wanted war anyway, and so why do we need such an army?

•Or how about a huge gripe-out for the crowds of idiots at the shopping malls or the traffic jams in parking lots; never mind that people are simply trying to share some love or that they are searching for that perfect gift for that special someone.

The Christmas season started when Jesus was born, which is an undeniable historic fact.

No other person, ever, has made such an impact on the planet. What other individual’s birthday generates over 18% of our annual GDP? And we’re still arguing over the whole deal some 2,000 years later. Instead of trying to ‘make a statement’ this season by criticizing, condemning or complaining, why not try something different this year? Love.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Alles in Ordnung!

The other night my daughter was visiting and accused” me of having an obsessive/compulsive disorder when it came to cleaning stuff and keeping things, in what I term, a state of order. My German heritage (Alles in Ordnung) coupled with being a Virgo may account and lend some good credence to this accusation. In reflecting on this potential truth, I took a quick inventory of some of my behaviors.
I’ll report, you decide:

1) my garage has 3 vacuum cleaners, all used for expressly different purposes and labeled accordingly,
2) my cologne is arranged in a cost descending order such that the cheaper stuff is used first whilst the expensive (Givenchy Pi) is used only for those special occasions,
3) my email in box never has anything older than 1 week in it,
4) my breakfast routine is carefully organized for the expedient and quick morning execution plan,
5) my morning “sit down” is scheduled in my Outlook,
6) my work desks (home and at the office) are free of litter and unwarranted paper refuting the axiom “a clean desk is a sign of a sick mind,”
7) my public restroom behaviors NEVER touch anything (don’t get technical here, please!) without a paper towel insulator,
8) I enjoy hanging around organized people and listen for tips (& write them down) on ways to get more organized,
9) I make many lists, then sticky notes reminding me to read the lists,
10) my truck is washed at least 3 times/week and dusted nightly and
11) most of my writing is about things that repulse me (except for when I write about myself, like this piece).

So maybe my daughter is correct in her assessment. In actuality, I would re-term the aforementioned “accusation” and re-term it an attribute, of which I wish more people possessed. Nothing is more disgusting than to walk into a colleague’s cube and see piles of paper and a cutesy little sign that reads, “the buck gets lost here!” Dirty cars should be illegal and public restrooms should be designed “touch less” (eg DEN airport). I do struggle with this as the world seems to be moving more toward of a state of entropy versus organization, but that’s my problem. I enjoy my little neurosis and feed it regularly. I am sick, but organized!

Despite this disease, the worst part of it is that I actually don’t feel in control of anything (listen up here all of you Pscyh majors, this may be a thesis!) and I tend to lose things or misplace things. It’s like I’m so fricken organized, that I am out of control. The other day I had to replace a sink fixture because, in the spirit of organization, I tossed a .39 cent washer thinking that it was taking up valuable garage space and that I’d never need it again. $243 dollars later after a trip to Home Deep, I started to feel guilty.
But this feeling soon disappeared when I realized that I was 3 minutes late for fertilizing my lawn.
Sick, very sick.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gas Line Rage and The Fall of the Rights of a Pedestrian

Gas lines are everywhere and I’m not sure why. I think a lot of people are traveling this summer despite the record high oil prices, and that must account for some of the traffic at the gas pump. The interesting social dynamic at the gas pump, however, is what this blog is about. I go to a gas station that is tied to a large grocery conglomerate and if you spend a certain amount of dollars per month, they give you a considerable discount on the price per gallon. I absolutely despise going to this gas station, however, because it is, by far, the rudest place to trade. It’s not the gas station’s fault, it’s the consumers that seem to take great pleasure in jockeying for the next ‘in line’ purchase. It’s much ruder than the type A people in the store check out lanes that zip back and forth to expedite their purchase. You know who you are; you’ll jump 8 lanes of lines to save a few seconds on your checkout time. Wow. What an accomplishment!

At this particular gas station, it’s just plain obnoxiously rude. Cars line up on the adjacent street so as to get the jump at the next available pump. This creates a backed up traffic jam on the particular street. Once a filling spot is open, people will jump to that space in order to save precious time. Yesterday I had the unpleasant task of buying gas. I was in the line and with one car in front of me. A spot became open, but it was “bass-ackward” to the guy’s gas tank. He violently gunned his car, grinded his reverse gear and backed into the space almost killing a patron in the process. Fortunately the patron was nimble on foot and managed to avoid a near death experience. The driver of the car said nothing to remedy his rudeness and only proceeded to glare at the walking patron for being in his way.

What’s wrong with this picture? I think it has to do with the de-personification of courtesy when one gets behind the wheel. The larger the vehicle, it seems to be the less need for courtesy and politeness. I drive a small Toyota so I’m humbled at every intersection! My solution to this gas station problem is simply to queue up behind someone gassing and then let it be. I may take 3 minutes longer, but it solves the road rage problem and the street jam. Turn off your engine, take some time and don’t jeopardize lives in the process of filling your tank. Road rage is nothing more than the lack of courtesy and politeness to our fellow human beings that happen to share our planet during our time here. The challenge for us all is to slow down, take it easier and don’t act as if our time at the gas pump (or check out lane for that matter) is a life and death situation. Not doing so may indeed make it a life and death situation for some pedestrian.

In Boulder pedestrians have the right-of-way. I like that. In Northern Colorado, pedestrians are simply obstacles to overcome or over-driven. When I moved to Colorado some 35 years ago, I was impressed at the patience people used when driving. Pedestrians were king. Can we return to such a state? Yes, if each one of us simply slows the pace down a bit, realizing that our vehicle is an extension of our personality and that we should never do anything in a vehicle that we wouldn’t do face to face with a fellow human.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Technological Devolution in the Corporate World of HR

(Written several years ago)

Automated phone systems suck.
I’m talking about the automated/voice activated/touch a number/never-talk-to-a-human type of a system. We have one here at work in our E-HR department, which, by definition, is not really a department but a web-site.
The overall concept of Electronic Human Resources (aka ‘Personnel,’ the 1980 term that absolutely repulses some of the left-behind-carbon-based-units) is an oxy moron. Our HR department is a web-site with a few nerds that keep the content up to date. If you want to know about your benefits, you go to a web site. If you want to fire someone, you visit another website.
Nary has a human entered into the equation.
To make matters even more insulting, our E-HR now has a automated phone system interface, which now settles the even slightest possibility of encountering a carbon-based-unit (CBU) with even the most drastic “life-changing event.” If you die, you are suppose to let your significant other know of these websites such that you can be properly removed from the payroll and deleted from all PDLs. You can automatically program the website for a “level on non-activity period,” which will make the assumption you’ve croaked. “if you are dead, press or say 9…if you are dying, press or say 911…if you have to fart, press your butt or say PPPFFFTT…if you are suicidal, please hold for the next available agent. Your call is important”(unfortunately not to anyone here).

The other day I was having one of those potential “life changing events” (severe pains in my chest) from navigating my arse off trying to find out if my prescription hay fever medication was covered under my e-insurance. After around a half an hour trying to navigate the 1,000 layer deep web site, I finally tried the “contact-us” button and got this ominous looking 1-800 number. I called it and ended up in another phone system from hell for another 38 minutes. I never did reach a CBU and finally ended up putting the call on hold and going to bed, hoping to screw their system somehow.
For about 2 years I had this method of simply hitting the pound key multiple times until something happened to kick me into the waiting arms of a CBU, but they’ve now disabled that functionality and it drops you back to the main starting menu asking your sex, mother’s maiden name, passwords and sperm count. If you miss anything, then it gives you a cryptic website where your profile may be updated. Problem is, you need the same logon and pw to weed through the web site.
This is progress or, said another way, technological devolution.
And what happened to the “rotary phone question?” This was another way around these idiotic systems; pretend you have a rotary phone, don’t do anything, and then they have to talk to you. They’ve disabled that function on our E-HR automated phone system as they believe no one really has such an antique.

So I’m fed up with our fancy technological lunacy that is seeking to substitute human contact with electrons. E-HR is stupid, yet it saves a bunch of money so I guess it’s the right thing to do. After all, if we paid people to talk with other people, that would be a real waste of money and, therefore, be an excellent candidate for being “cheap-sourced” somewhere else in the world, with more lost jobs...
Press 5 if you are feeling lucky. Press 3 if you just robbed a bank. Press this, press that. I'm not IM-pressed.
"If you wish to speak with a humanoid CBU, we are sorry, but there are none left. Please visit our website where you can solve your own stupid problem. Have a great day!"

I give up.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Garage Golfing

Some time ago I had this terrific idea on how I could create a mini-driving range in my garage. I had seen the idea done before at a golf shop in the Bay Area where they hit real balls with real drivers against a wall lined with mattress-like material. The balls hit the soft stuff and the balls simply died. I actually woke up one day thinking that there's really NO reason why I couldn't do something of the same right in the ole garage. The idea continued to build as my creativity worked imagining that I could simply use a large fishing net, some string and an existing tee mat that I use outside in the summer when driving whiffle balls. I sped home from work, left my truck parked outside and began stringing up the large fish net to the garage ceiling, the 67 Classic Mustang front drivers side wheel spinner and its antennae, a ladder and a 2 x 4 board. For the ball-collection base I used an old fitted sheet, thereby making a safe haven for the balls when they died on the net. Beth wondered if she should put her Camry outside, but we (other friends and my son arrived on the scene) assured her that "...we've been golfing long enough to be able to hit a net from 3 yards away!"

We had been golfing for a little over 6 months.

After setting up the netting and getting out my clubs, I was thinking that I need some practice on the new 3 wood that I just purchased, but my son talked me down to a 7 iron for warming up. This turned out to be a very good piece of advice. One of the distinct advantages of the newly designed "garage driving range" was that one could literally watch the garage TV whilst practicing driving a ball! The netting was about 5 feet in front of the TV and we were watching the Simpsons. My son even commented "...just aim for the TV" as we could see it through the fish net. How cool!

I started with my 7 iron so as to 'feel out' this new driving range. I think I was a bit too excited and put a bit too much on the first drive. The ball struck like a lightning bolt under the 2 x 4 anchor, peeling like thunder through the netting and careened under my work bench at a velocity of around 98 MPH. Not good. Well at least I missed the TV and the dent in the dry wall can hardly be seen since it's behind my workbench. Next I secured the 2 x 4 anchor with more nails, which I knew would solve the problem of low flying shots.

I never thought of slices, however.

The next shot was a slice totally missing the netting and fired through my tools, hitting the peg board and knocking off several bags of cement screws. My son was there dying of laughter watching all of this so he tried a few shots and they were ok. My confidence was re-built so I tried another shot with my 7 iron. This shot was really not nice. Never mind that the ball bounced back from the net and almost killed me, I nearly wrapped my Calloway 7 iron around the nearby ladder on my follow through stroke. I had inadvertently moved a bit too close to the ladder. My coach tells me to follow through on my swing, yet I think he's making the assumption that I'm playing outside in the clear of any ladders. The ball actually ended up flying very fast under the 67 Mustang making very nasty sounds as it was losing its energy on the undercarriage of the car and careening over the perfectly finished paint job.

We sold the car shortly thereafter. And it had nothing to do with my golf game.

I never imagined that I could lose golf balls in my garage, but to this day 12 of my new Top-Flite balls are somewhere in my garage. We decided to migrate to the whiffle balls, which would be an order of magnitude safer. Not so. Let me just say that a whiffle ball traveling at over 100 MPH in a garage can be very dangerous and damaging. I really believe that the dents in the Camry can be pounded out with minimal effort and the broken light fixtures are not that expensive. The group was choking up with heinous laughter by now so I decided that I had done enough damage for the evening and that I should just wait until the weather clears and golf on a real golf course.

While we all had a good laugh, I learned a very good lesson tonight; effective garage-golf may be more expensive than simply going to the driving range!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Towel Dispensers:

First off, I am not a big fan of public restrooms, but on occasions, I find that I must frequent them. Enter the Towel Dispenser. Towel dispensers have taken on some evolution over the past several decades and within this blog-about-nothing, I would like to explore this evolution whilst asking for your help in keeping the evolution moving in the right direction.

Rolling White Towel Dispenser (RWTD): This classic gas station towel dispenser emerged sometime around the 60s. This was the era where you could simply walk around the side of the gas station and freely enter with no keys or the need to make a purchase.

Typically this large and bulky machine had a small mirror in the front, was built out of porcelain and wound clean cloth towels to a dirty collection roll. We still see residual RWTD models, yet the cost of having someone replace the rolls, launder them and clean the mirror was the main reason for its demise. The bad news about this dispenser was its mechanical dependency, which usually broke, rendering the beast inoperable. The other issue with the RWTD was that at the end of the clean towel roll, all one could do was dry hands on someone else’s filth. At this point, you simply dried off up using toilet paper, if available, your handkerchief, pants or whatever could be found.

The RWTD received many passive-aggressive physical attacks. It was not common to see broken porcelain, graffiti pertaining to brain-stormming of sexual suggestions/ideas and the mirrors had a half-life of less than a week. People reacted violently to this machine when the towel got twisted or at the end of the roll. The RWTD was a very negative evolutionary step in the history of Towel Dispenserology.

Laden with dependency on labor to replace the cloth towel roll, high costs of using cloth and the propensity to find these machines with tagged with bullet holes (from very frustrated clean-freaks), led evolution to the use of paper and the FFID.

Free-Folding Independent Dispenser (FFID): With the ‘Freedom Movement’ of the 60s, our society was poised for the FFID. People wanted to ‘take back’ the public restroom. They wanted freedom to dry their hands with impunity. They wanted peace, not violence, as was found in the RWTD. The FFID was the answer, and is currently making a huge come-back!

There are many variants of this non-technical machine which is simply a box (like a Kleenex box) that dispenses clean pre-folded paper towels. The cost of this tissue-like-dispenser is extremely low. There are no moving parts. It is an elegantly simple box. The FFIDs came in several capacity variants ranging from a few hundred paper towels to thousands.

This machine gets my high marks as each cloth towel is, theoretically, clean. So long as there is paper in the machine, this little baby requires no electricity, has no moving parts and is 100% reliable.

Even though this little jewel gets high scores for its simplicity, there is a salient temptation to pilfer towels for personal usage, such as checking the oil in one’s car, cleaning car windows or cleaning up doggy poo at home.

Towel User Ratchet Dispenser (TURD): Around the early 1990’s, someone got the “bright” idea that people should be in charge of their own towel destiny and, as a result, came up with this de-humanized, plastic ratchet machine that fed a 4 inch towel to the user through a weight-sensitive cam, which failed almost on every revolution of the paper roll. I believe the idea was to conserve paper. Knowing that this piece of crap would fail to deliver, the machine had a right-hand EMERGENCY knob forcing the user to hope and twist the knob (albeit with wet and slippery fingers) to advance the needed towel. There are many, many disadvantages to this piece of junk:
1) the mechanized EMERGENCY knob forces the user to touch only 1 square inch of a rubber (a pathogen life preserver) when dispensing. Who knows what is living on that one round inch of rubber. (I have found a way around this system by first advancing 2-4 feet of paper PRIOR to the wash, then use said paper to advance another 5-6 feet of paper for job completion and door exit. I also have launched a silent protest to literally waste paper to defeat this monster and its cost effectiveness selling point. Feel free to join in the passive-aggressive protestation),
2) it panders to the right handed people of the world, paying no respect to us lefties. Another blow to our self esteem and diversity,
3) it breaks frequently resulting in the spew of an accordion-like wad of paper that is unusable.
4) It begs for vandalism, breakage and aggression.

The Automated No-touch Dispenser (TAND): Coupled and driven by the technological revolution and the need to apply such technology into the public restroom, the TAND was born!

This one has my vote. The user simply waves wet hands under the towel delivery area and out comes 14” of un-touched-by-human-hands paper towel, solving many of the problems stated above with RWTDs and TURDS.

The downside to the TAND is its electro-mechanization-technological volatility and battery life. When a malfunction happens, the thing is shut-down, off-line big time. From The Towel Dispenser Research Institute of Higher Education, Fellowships and Unity, (TOFU), however, the mean-time to failure is over 45 days, which is admirable! Vandalism statistics on the TAND also support high customer acceptance.

However, there is the temptation is to stand and simply waste paper because it’s fun! I caught myself in this act once and had to laugh when I saw myself in the mirror draped with 9 yards of clean towels! This was clearly something that should not be done, despite the temptation.

The Plea:

Public-Restroom-Users-of-the-World, UNITE, and stand behind the FFID or the TAND by NOT wasting paper. Wasting paper will only force the establishment to move to back to an RWTD or, worse, a TURD. Stand up and be counted. Be recognized as a FFID/TAND user and be a proud American. Limit your vandalism to the RWTD and to the TURD. As we help the evolution of the towel dispenser, your behaviors toward these machines is important.

We need unity, changing the world behind closed doors.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Always On (from my past corporate experience):

Just like you, I get a bunch of emails throughout the day and into the evening. On the average, I usually get 150 work emails and a couple of dozen personal ones. Even with 50% of them ‘delete-able’ with no action required, that still leaves me with about 80 emails that require some work. And I’m not high enough in the organization to have some poor soul sift through this *&^% for me. You do the math; 80 emails divided by 10 hours of work time (if I’m lucky) translate into 10/hour responses. Now if you extract, say, 5 hours of meeting times the numbers gets really stupid (forget the math at this point).

It’s not a work/life balance, but rather a work/work balance for such corporate ‘life.’

The night screen fires up when Asia wakes up followed by the normal barrage of EU email several hours later. Then one can kinda witness the States waking up from the East to the West coast as the email wave moves from New York to California. When I was in Hawaii a few weeks ago, it was the worst place to be in terms of email timing. This is the farthest West portion of the global time zone and you’re guaranteed to always be a minimum of 4 hours, at best, behind. I guess it’s better to be in Hawaii and behind in your email than to be in Shinju-Ku Japan at the head of the daily wave! The waves are much prettier in Hawaii!

I usually stay plugged in most of the night, then go to bed, get up and check out the early damage reports. The bad thing is that my manager is in California so I have to stay plugged till around 8 MST. And during my last performance review, I had as an objective “to be always on, 7 x 24 x 52,” which was one of the most stupid things I’ve ever done! Essentially, what I am describing is an endless churn of 24 x 7 x too many days fighting the email wars, fending off spam, trying to keep up with my personal email account and squeezing in some day trading of gold equities in a game with some friends.

“Always On” is a relatively new term that is starting to gain popularity. People like to boast of their “Always On” status. By the same token, vacation time is now being termed “Soft Vacation,” or Soft FTO. This means that the person is vouchering time off on the time clock, yet available to work if needed. I have a real problem with this new definition because it almost guarantees no down time for individuals. I took Soft FTO last Friday and ended up in 4 teleconferences and 2 escalations that leaked far into the evening. Nice day off, eh? I was so stressed by the end of the day, frustrated that I just vouchered a day of FTO then ended up in such a mess. I think I managed to watch a re-run of Seinfield for my Holiday experience. Nice.

I’m not sure where all of this is going to end, but my suspicion is that our next sacrifice on the alter of working harder (& sometimes smarter) is that we’ll start giving up our sleep time. Maybe it will be called Soft Sleep time, where people are free to interrupt your evening rest if they have a question that cannot wait 8 hours. This isn’t entirely ridiculous. Have you ever answered your cell phone whilst conducting your “morning sit down?” You know you have. So in the quest to keep on keeping on and being on always, I see no stopping this monster from it’s continual grasp of our entire life. No one that I see has the guts to really stop it either.

I love living in the age that we do with all of the technological wonders and the ability to communicate with virtually anyone anywhere anytime. But have we gone a bit too far and too nuts? The answer to that question is rhetorical.
Once always on, there is no turning back.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Standing in the Baggage Claim area…

Whether it’s at DFW or DEN, there is a certain stupid ambience that surrounds the baggage claim carousel. Like pigs around a trough awaiting their morning slop, or perched caffeine addicts at a local Starbucks awaiting their Venti-9-pump-non-fat-no-water-egg-nog-chai-extra-hot-to-147-degrees-latte (see Aimee’s blog Mixed metaphors about The Starbucks Experience), we all find ourselves at the baggage claim carousel on occasion.

The baggage claim area is, perhaps, the strangest swine line up ever. The population is stratified. To begin with the very savvy traveler NEVER checks in a bag. They will find any conceivable way to jam-pack a slightly oversized carry on to avoid the swine line and, ultimately, lost luggage. While the rest of us are waiting and hoping to get our bags, the very savvy travelers are already at the car rental lot and well on their way.

The early snatchers are the ones that have a very personal relationship with their bag and recognize it from afar. They’ve planned out their reunion. They appear to even have some mystical way knowing exactly when their bag is approaching. Some tactics include bright ribbons, duct tape or clearly identifiable graffiti for ease of detection. They confidently grab their bag and whisk it away with a one arm movement much like the grace of a fly fischer carefully netting a Brown Trout.

The next swineage category are the idiots. These are the people (I’m in this group) that forgot what their bag looked like hours ago when they checked it in, and now they fumble and finger every bag that may remotely resemble theirs. These idiots are easy to spot as they will physically check multiple bags again and again, thinking that whilst the carousel made another pass that somehow their bag morphed its form into another. They never read the marquee to learn if their flight is even being unloaded. They may wander from carousel to carousel in a random stupor. You can also spot an idiot because even after they have made positive identification of their bag, they check the name tags, match the check in bar code and make a thorough luggage body cavity search of the unit securing that it *is* in fact theirs.

Next we have the people that locate their bags on the carousel, yet lack the muster to be able to hoist it off of the moving track; the weenies. These people typically are clumsily bonking their suitcase over the tops of others and sometimes end up on the track itself along with the luggage. Someone usually intervenes and saves the embarrassed person from losing a limb, their luggage or both to the revolving carousel. It seems that there is an inverse relationship to the size of the luggage and the weenie for some strange reason.

And finally there are those that simply wait patiently for their bag, pick it up and make no big deal about the whole thing. It is neither a Christmas morning nor a re-acquaintance with a long lost friend. These also are the seasoned travelers, yet they couldn’t figure out how to jam 12 days of clothes into their carry on. They have rendered to the baggage transport process and accept it with grace. They don’t crane their necks thinking that they may be at the wrong spot. They don’t jump in front of people swan-diving for their bags. If they miss it one time, they know it’ll be coming around again in a few minutes.

The next time you travel, consider the swine trough. Consider the baggage claim activity as a very mundane and routine activity that usually works quite well. It is not your first stage appearance and your bags are not any more important than another’s. While we cannot do much about the idiots, we can at least be patient and kind. And don’t forget to lend a helping hand if you see a weenie lodged in between some bags. You may save a life.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Generation of Hope

Over the past few years, I’ve traveled to Africa on several occasions working on our NPO, Think Humanity. We’ve accomplished a ton of things and it’s really rewarding. Seeing people being saved from the dreaded plague of malaria is the spiritual reward and working with such fine individuals in Africa makes it possible.

In fact, Think Humanity would be lost without our famous African Team (The A-Team) that coordinates, manages and leads all of our TH projects. They are the feet on the ground that do the work…along with many young people both African and young people from the western world.

The young people are always there, at the ready. The generation of my kids, plus even later generations are the ones leading an overall ‘charge to action’ for world injustice. Ok, I’m not going to get political, but frankly, I’m quite proud of these generations doing something about world injustice (the inequality of allocated resources based upon place of birth, my definition, with some help from Bono). My generation (Baby Boomers) are (generally speaking, admitted) more concerned about gaining individual wealth, individual security, independence and ‘doing our own thing (how’s that for an indictment on the 60’s movement?). We focused internally, meditated internally for peace and reconciled this all through ‘dropping in, dropping out and dropping acid.’ No apologies here for our rebellious nature, but meanwhile, some 10,000 miles from Haight Ashbury, people were pretty much ignored. And the cycle continued, we grew older, replaced drugs with booze (some of us, at least) and settled into the comforts of modern day Western Capitalism. Our simple goal was to have a nicer income than our parents. A bigger house. More individual wealth. A kick-ass 401k.

These new generations, let’s call them ‘Generation Hope’ (I hate the term Gen X, Gen Tech, because it’s quite insulting to them!), view the world through eyes that we did not give them. They view the world as a Global Village where traveling internationally is as common to the Boomers as traveling to the Bay Area for monthly staff meetings. But their eyes are different. In their eyes, they see injustice and are doing something about it. They are active. They are involved. They are giving their lives to Hope. They seem to care less about a career and seem to care a lot about Hope. They do.

They have a sense that they can change the world, not in the shallow sense of one of my favorite songs by Graham Nash’s “We Can Change the World,” where the reference is to the Democratic Convention in Chicago. They have an urgency sense that spans beyond political affiliations and seek unification. They truly are seekers of Hope.

Back to my rock roots of being a Boomer (and still an active drummer!), it appears that (finally) Generation Hope ‘gets it’ without having to screw with the junk that occluded our Boomer minds; ONLY focusing on drugs, money, status, their corporate careers, sex, rock and roll and eventually selfishness. Maybe we had to go through the 60’s to get to this generation. Maybe now, finally after the drugs are worn off, the real meaning of what we were about is manifesting itself through our children and our children’s children. Maybe we Boomers can take *some* (albeit small) credit for Generation Hope, because they had to learn it somewhere, right?

As I grow older, being of the past thinking of ‘never trusting anyone over 30,’ I hear my parent’s generation continue to banter on how the world is getting worse, things are going to hell in a hand basket and the future is a farce. But my rebellious nature from the 60s still is there and I fight the notion that Hope is gone. Nope, Hope is here. Hope is something us Boomers didn’t quite figure out, but the new Generation Hope has. They realize that ‘significance’ is more important than money. They realize that, truly, ‘we CAN change the world.’

So Graham Nash didn’t have it wrong, he just maybe had a bit too much weed, derailing the otherwise good intentions, which by the way, “pave the way to hell” (Karl Marx, Capital); merely intending to do well, without actually doing it, is of no value. Generation Hope is actively doing something with their intentions and we Boomers can follow.

The choice is now up to us.

Friday, October 8, 2010

My Problems:

I awake to the soft music of my alarm clock, nestled in my Queen-size bed in a large beautiful house where the air is always at 70 degrees and clean with a garage larger than some people’s house. My feet touch the carpeted floor as I stretch and I put on my comfy white bathrobe to make my way to the bath room. In our bath, I hit the auto-coffee maker button, turn on the bathroom LCD TV and begin shaving with my electric razor. My teeth are brushed with a cordless toothbrush and I down over 9 vitamins with several swigs of coffee and freshly bottled water from the small refrigerator under one of our sinks. I am quite annoyed by the several half-used tubes of toothpaste and wonder why we don’t roll the tubes properly. I take a hot shower and stand impatiently waiting for the water to reach the perfect warmth, then weigh myself and measure my body fat index on the electronic scale. My smart-phone is belching out alarms indicating that I have appointments, emails and text messages. I am concerned that my weight is 3 pounds over, but then reconcile this knowing I downed over 9 pieces of cheese pizza some 12 hours ago. I put on a fresh pair of clothing, slip on my $200 Italian shoes and move down stairs. I open the curtains and observe the sprinkler system running and several spots that are not lush green. I push the button on the button on the kitchen coffee machine and continue drinking to satisfy my pleasant caffeine addiction. I move to my home office to my computer checking email and am annoyed that my ISP is slower than normal today for some reason. I check my email accounts, create some replies and read my morning devotionals on line. I say a prayer with my wife and then head off to the office. I crawl into my new truck, noticing that I failed to wash the dust off of it this weekend, turn the FM radio to Christian rock and leave closing the garage door with another button. The garage door remote needs new batteries and I am annoyed. I notice that my trash should be picked up today and I hope that the trash-person does not litter anything that may fall out of the trash truck, because that is so annoying to me. If they do this today, I shall call the company and complain of poor service and make them return to clean up any litter and demand a refund for this month’s services. While I drive into work, my voice mail is blaring through my blue-tooth on the radio with many people wanting something from me. I reconcile this stress knowing that my 6 figure salary is going to make up for such annoyances. I get to the office in good time and notice that someone has taken the parking place that I normally use. I am annoyed. I get into work and venture to the café to get yet another cup of office coffee, knowing that it will not compare with the taste that I’ve been enjoying thus far from our Bistro machines at home. I sit at my desk and begin my work. But first I check my investment portfolios and am a bit annoyed with the rates of return being 1% less than what I expected earlier this month. I am annoyed at my financial planner and will call her today. I am annoyed at the number of emails and the number of teleconferences that I have today. But I ‘suck it up,’ and move on to the tasks of the day, knowing that tonight I’ll take out my $2500 mountain bike to my favorite ridge and enjoy myself. I also know that next Friday afternoon, I’ll head up the canyon and do some fly fishing using one of my 8 different fly rods, each of which are worth over $500. I’ll catch some fish, release them and enjoy this sport. But today is Monday and we are programmed to hate these wretched days of work and corporate slavery. So I dread the day, and look forward to the weekend where on Saturday I’ll pay $150 for a round of golf, escaping the stresses of life.
My life is full of such problems.
Meanwhile, some 10,000 miles southeast of my house, a refugee-villager, with the same educational level as mine, is getting ready to try and sleep in their mud hut. It is dark and they have no electricity or clean water. Their candles and kerosene lanterns are their only source of light, filling the air with the pungent fumes of burnt kerosene. There is no door on their hut, only a dingy rag that deters some bugs, but not that many. They have only 1/3 of their yellow gallon water jug left from today for bathing and drinking, preparing what little they can prior to lying on their cobbled-together wooden platform that sits just high enough so that the rats have more of a challenge. They gather their family on this platform, blow out the lantern and candles, then lower their mosquito net over them, tucking it in under the corners of the platform and hoping that no mosquitoes have already joined them inside. It’s hot and they melt inside each other’s sweat, but they are together and are happy. They tell jokes and laugh. They all are happy to be alive and are saying their evening prayers, one by one.
They fear malaria and had 1 child die from it less than a month ago. Their baby is buried only a few meters from where they sleep. They are cramped together and tonight’s humidity is over 90%. They lie their together, blending each other’s sweat, body to body. They finish their prayers and drift together into beautiful and restful sleep, cramped but papa snores loud. They are at peace resting in a deep sleep, together.
They will share the same infections, the same sicknesses, the same red dirt, the same odors and will get peaceful sleep, knowing that they must get up in less than 7 hours and refill their water jugs, which means the usual 2 mile walk for water that will make them sick. Once they return and the blistering sun and humidity is at its peak, they will then go to their garden and dig some potatoes, pick some beans and a few ears of corn and then stirring up the never ending fire for boiling food and cooking. Never mind the bugs on the corn, they are part of the protein. They will cook their one meal for the day, realize that night comes quickly on the equator, then start this process all over again. This is their routine. This was their Monday night and they also look forward to the weekend where their routine is broken by attending a four-hour church service.
This family is now sleeping under a net because of a vision that started just over a year ago. One step. One action. One article by a journalist that understood this injustice. One live saved. One person that cared. And the ripple in the stagnant pond has now become a monster tsunami! We can change the world, and it starts with one person at a time.
Think of your problems.
Think Humanity.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Gracefully Growing Old

This is an article that applies to everyone that is one day older than the day before. In short, a person that is still alive. All humans are in “the process of growing old.” The interesting thing, however, is that we all handle this process differently. Most of us try to fight it as much as we can through cosmetic surgeries, hair transplants, wigs, age-fighting cosmetics and we work out physically to stave off the eventual fact of death and preserve our present condition as long as possible. One seldom meets another that (overtly) expedites the aging process. How many advertisements are there touting how to make one look 40 years older?

When one comes across a distant acquaintance, we notice their age. We see their differences and tend to gloss over it with trite comments such as, “…you haven’t changed since the last time we met 30 years ago…,” knowing that this is totally untrue. We tend to think nothing about how our looks have changed. Right. We mused about the past times, continually avoiding the time factor. Some people age very gracefully, keep in good shape and seem to be blessed with a youthful appearance. Others, however, are not so blessed and the age-machine is evidenced everywhere!

Growing to a “ripe” age is, in fact, something of a gift that we fight versus embrace. Some people don’t have this luxury and are required to leave this planet early on in life (maybe they are the lucky ones…another topic altogether).

So the challenge is to “age gracefully.” The challenge is “how?”

We’ve all been to bars, events, parties or get-togethers where we’ve seen someone trying to fit into an age group to which they clearly do not belong. Another way to witness this is to periodically tune into a PBS channel and watch some 60 rock band try and do their songs as if they were only in their 20s. Their voices strain, their hair may be gone or gray, protruding bellies that were once flat and hard and (depending on the amount of cosmetic surgery) the tell-tale wrinkles in their complexion give their age away. Now I’m not knocking these people. I actually think it’s quite nice to see that they can still do their thing. Mick Jagger is a prime example of this! But even Mick acknowledges his age and has toned down his act to accommodate one to more closely align with his age. Paul McCartney’s music is now a different genre. How many people would buy rap music by Phil Collins? Isn’t it neat that James Taylor, that obviously could have purchased a hair transplant, didn’t? I saw Richie Furay on TV the other day and his once long brown pony tail is now quite gray. While you can still hear roots of POCO, he’s tuned his music to his age. It’s nice when the pro athletes kinda step aside for the younger rookies. What aging brilliance!

We all know of examples on the other extreme as well. Will Dolly Parton ever be over 40? And who knows what about Kenny Rogers! The point here is a simple one. Growing old is a blessing. How we grow old should be a graceful process, one that embraces our age, builds a foundation of experience and wisdom and responds to nature in natural ways. If you can afford the cosmetic investments, more power to you! Keeping fit physically is our responsibility and we all should endeavor to have some fitness and dietary programs that we adhere to. As we grow old, our minds also need to be “seasoned” accordingly, not trying to be something we were in another age. There’s nothing wrong in “acting your age!” This is not simply a statement to fling at your adolescent who is trying to figure out whether she/he is an adult or a kid. It actually could be a mantra, tuning us to gracefully approach the aging process in a “mature” way. We should respect our age like a fine wine; the older, the smoother! I think I’ll put on my 1970 POCO album!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Butt Dialing

Yesterday whilst enjoying my favorite addiction at Starbucks in the warm sunshine, I learned of a new term called Butt Dialing (BD). BD is when one inadvertently dials a cell phone via the accidental pressing of the keyboard. Like when you sit down with your cell phone in your hip pocket, the cell phone is unlocked, and some auto-dial button is pressed thereby placing a call, hence the term Butt Dialing. There are a variety of physiological ways in which this may happen, the Butt being the engagement mechanism only one of several. Once a BD occurs, the BDed person can then hear your conversation much like an espionage bug.

My daughter told me that she gets a lot of BDs and that she typically enjoys them! She has no idea how or why she gets so many, but we now have a technological situation that presents itself with some very ethical questions. For example, if your receive a BD, should you listen in? While my son was in college he BDed me and I heard his entire lunch conversation with his friends (through his pocket shirt, which technically should be called a Breast Dial …same acronym, however). Frankly, I wish I wouldn’t have heard the discussion, but I couldn’t hang up! It’s like when you know something’s really gross, you have to look at it. Accidents on I-25 are a keen example to demonstrate this point. So the ethical question is pretty obvious; should you be listening in to someone else’s conversation, knowing that it was a Butt Dial?

Another question is, do you tell the Butt Dialer later on after the call? “Hey, Joe, you Butt Dialed me Thursday at 1 AM when you were at the bar. I know everything you said to that chick you were with.” Or is it better to simply tell Joe that he butt dialed on Thursday and then let him sweat out the other details (how much you heard, did you hang up, are you going to tell others, etc.). Today I BDed someone. She called back and wanted to know why I called. I simply told her that it was a Butt Dial and she immediately understood and was very cordial. She, apparently, has been a victim of BD before so it was not a big deal.

Now that I know I am capable of committing BD, I always have my phone in a locked status when not in use. Also, I’ve practiced OCD hang ups to secure that the connection is truly gone. It would be nice if there were some mobile phone software that detects a Butt Dial. Maybe the auto dial function could incorporate some detection of a BD (lack of voice on one end, detection of noxious gasses close to the mobile unit, etc.) and then incorporate an Extended Butt Dial Greeting such as, “The person that called you Butt Dialed and it was unintentional. Please hang up.” Any way you look at it, there’s a huge opportunity for someone to make some money off of BDs either in court, extortion or in software inventions. Have you ever been a BD victim?

Friday, October 1, 2010


Friday IS my favorite day of the week, even over Saturday and Sunday.
Friday is the day of anticipation, the day of closing out the week, the day that you can get away wearing casual clothes and maybe even leave work a bit early. It's also the day that you can legitimately procrastinate things into the following week and usually never get an argument from anyone. There's even a restaurant named after Fridays! Can you imagine a restaurant named after Monday? The only bad thing about Friday is that you know that Monday is only 2 days away. And please don't give me this crap about "if you loved what you did, you wouldn't care what day of the week it is." If that's true for you, then good for you, you're one in a billion that has figured this stuff out, and you should log off of this blog right now! But for the rest of us poor SOBs, we definitely see, feel and experience the different personalities of each week day. Friday IS good. Monday sucks.

People tend to be in better moods on Fridays and at corporate America, they tend to deliver the bad news on Friday because they know that it's easier to take it on a Friday versus a Tuesday or Monday. We've been working for over 100 years 5 days a week and I think it's about time to shorten our work week to a 4 day work week. Thursday should be our last day of work, even though everyone would still be logged on during the weekend just like now. But wouldn't it be nice to have a consistent 3 day weekend? We'd spend more money on leisure time activities, have more time to service our vehicles (this obviously wouldn't work for retail businesses!) and probably even get a bit more rest. It would probably be good for the economy! Maybe to transition this gradually, we should start off with a 4.5 day work week, blowing off Friday afternoon. No meetings would be allowed. Due dates would never fall at COB Friday night. Then the evolution could eventually creep up, taking out the Friday morning. By dong this, Monday's persona would be eradicated, knowing that it's a 4 day work week, we'd approach Monday like it was a Tuesday.

Clearly a mind trip, I know, but it would work. I like mind trips.

To launch this effort, I am logging off my computer at noon today and I encourage all of my faithful blog readers (both of you!) to do the same. I doubt seriously that the CEOs of large companies will come up with this idea so "if it's going to be, it must start with me." If this became a standard operating principle, then gradually it may become entrenched into our work culture. Maybe even some corporate CEO would jump on the idea (as if it were her own) and implement a policy that would sanction it. I'm telling you all it would take is a few dominoes to start this thing falling.

Then we could actually enjoy Friday, knowing that Monday is really like Tuesday and that now we only have 4 days to complete our 5 day work load. On Thursday we'd be in a better mood, acting as if it were really Friday. Thursday would take on Friday's persona, Monday would take on Tuesday's persona, on and on it goes. Hey, I'd quit going to the driving range for my 3 hour lunch break and my efficiencies would still get the requisite amount of work accomplished. All in favor, please log off NOW, go home, go to the bar, go to the golf course, whatever, and start your weekend!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A blog about nothing

If you’re a Seinfeld fan, then you know that the show was based upon the premise ‘a show about nothing.’ Remember that episode where Jerry and George tried to sell this concept to the TV producers? It was very clever. Seinfeld had no major plots, mysteries or dramatic earth changing events (aside from the episode of the soup Nazi!). The show was about every day life of a few people living in New York. The characters were who we identified with. Everyday situations, about nothing.

If one can create a successful sitcom with “nothing” as the theme, then why can’t one do the same in a blog space? For one thing, in a blog there are no major characters with whom to identify, except of course the author of the blog, in this case me. But the reader doesn’t know who I am; they simply can deduce certain nuances of my character (or lack thereof) from statements, observations, style of writing and theme selection. Someone once asked why I’m called “Frog.” The answer is complex and beyond a simple blog. Hopefully, you can identify with every day situations that you typically don’t think about, yet in a reflective sense, make a connection.

The Frog blog has no purpose, is random and may focus on community (or other such philanthropic activities), simple things in our life that are ‘interesting’ (at least to me) or may simply ramble on. A good example is what you’re reading right now. In a way, after I read my junk, I kinda feel the same way after a Seinfeld episode. It was funny, yet not life changing. Reading the Frog Blog is akin to trying to get real full by eating a bunch of lettuce. It’s like being at the 2nd mile marker in the Bolder Boulder, then realizing that you have to take a big crap. You really don’t know what to do with the situation. So it is when one decides to give up 10 minutes of your discretionary time to read the Frog Blog.

In direct contradiction to whatever it is that I’m writing about, the Frog Blog *does* have an objective and theme statement. I drafted this over 2 years ago. I share this out of embarrassment and in a somewhat defensive posture. “This column will, as its name implies, be a column with diverse and, in some cases, random, topics of interest, fun and opinion. Please expect articles that depict my opinion on certain matters, funny spoofs on life and how we approach things and whatever floats to the surface on the pond of life.”

So when you decide to read the Frog Blog, the owners manual is very simple; put your mind in neutral and allow it to drift. In the example of the Bolder Boulder, stop and relieve yourself in the bushes. For all of you “real” bloggers out there, my hat is off to you for your community involvement, your dedication to take the time to post facts and report on 'real' events. As for the Frog Blog, until they kick me off, I’ll continue to churn out the meaningless brouhaha because for at least me, it’s fun! Thank you for reading about absolutely nothing!