Saturday, December 15, 2012

What Gun Control?

I really don't want to wade into the gun control debate.  I just have a few observations that I'd like to share.

  • There is no gun control. There are a lot of guns out there. Many of them are in the wrong hands. Whether you believe gun control should exist, or should not exist, the fact is, it doesn't exist in any effective form.
  • According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Connecticut, where yesterday's horrific tragic took place, and its neighboring states of Massachusetts and New York are all among the more restrictive states with regard to gun ownership. (Brady, 2012)
  • According to some studies, violent crime varies INVERSELY with legal gun sales. Virginia Commonwealth University Professor Thomas Baker has crunched the numbers in the state of Virginia, and has determined that gun sales in the state have climbed 73% since 2006, while the number of violent crimes involving guns has declined by more than 27%. (NRA, 2012)
  • A loophole in the federal law requiring criminal background checks allows sales at gun shows to go forward without a check. This accounts for 40% of all U.S. private gun sales. That's just a poor work product from the legislature. (CSGV, 2012)
  • Fortunately, there are "not enough" mass shooting incidents to draw reliable statistical correlations with anything. (I know. PLEASE don't take the first words of that sentence out of context.) Common sense might say otherwise, but the numbers aren't there to draw sound quantitatively-based conclusions about violent media exposure and other potential influences. 
  • Mass shooting incidents, especially in the otherwise comfortable affluent suburbs get in-depth media attention, but they are statistically insignificant compared to the scourge of gun violence on our city streets. The daily killings in our cities receive relatively little attention in most outlets.  A notable exception is the Huffington Post's Chicago Gun Violence stream. (Huffington, 2012a).  
  • On a single night in Chicago (Monday, 12/3/12), there were 11 shootings overnight. November shootings in Chicago were up 49 percent over 2011. Through 11 months, shootings were up 11 percent and homicides were up 21 percent. (Huffington, 2012b)
  • Guns are designed to kill.  Don't create specious arguments against gun control by comparing gun violence deaths with traffic fatalities, for example. Cars do not have a lethal primary purpose.
  • "Guns don't kill people. People kill people." may be a time-worn cliché but it has some basis in fact. We cannot blame inanimate objects for the evil actions of broken people and the soul-sickness to which we are all susceptible.


Brady (2012). Brady 2011 state scorecards. Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
Retrieved from

CSGV (2012). Gun show loophole. Coalition to Stop Gun Violence.
Retrieved from

NRA (2012). Wayne's commentary (11/27/12), more guns, less crime in Virginia. The National Rifle Association of America.
Retrieved from

Huffington (2012a) Chicago gun violence. The Huffington Post.
Retrieved from

Huffington (2012b). Shot waiting for bus: Chicago bystanders among 11 shot overnight after violent weekend. The Huffington Post.
Retrieved from

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksdoing!

Attitude In Action

Attitude drives behavior. Behavior creates and reinforces attitude. Does your behavior demonstrate your gratitude? Beyond mere words, what do you do to show yourself grateful? As you profess an attitude of gratitude, today is a good day to think about how you put it into action.

Be Specific

Is it possible to be "generally thankful"? Perhaps. Attitude is important, and a propensity to be thankful is an attractive and healthful personality trait, but being constructively thankful involves being giving thanks to someone for something specific. Fifty-three Plymouth colonists, along with 90 Native Americans, did not celebrate that "First Thanksgiving" in 1621 because it seemed like a good party theme.They were thankful for the harvest, for their new lives in the new world, and for life itself. In the United States, Thanksgiving Day has been officially observed since 1863. While the nation was plunging into some of its darkest days during the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of "Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens". Today is a good day to express your gratitude to somebody specific, in heaven or on Earth, for something specific.

Just Say "You're Welcome"

When somebody says "thank you", do you say "no problem" or "it was nothing"? Don't. That devalues whatever you did to earn the "thank you." It says, "well, if it had been the least bit hard or inconvenient for me, I would not have done it for you". It says, "your gratitude is unimportant, because what I did for you was unimportant to me." Don't do that. When somebody says "thank you", assume that they mean it. Let it mean something to you. If you were happy to help, say so, or just say "you're welcome."

Thanksgiving is Thanksdoing

As you are able, show yourself grateful through more than words, do something for another that they cannot possibly repay. Create situations for others to be thankful. Just do it. Happy Thanksdoing!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Random Stuff From The BookShelf

Inspired by the recent postings on Facebook in honor of International Book Week, I followed a slightly different procedure. Starting at a random spot on my bookshelves, I found the first three sentences from the second paragraph on page 52 and recorded it below.  Then I skipped three books on the shelf and found three more sentences in the same way.  If they relate in any way to the previous book, you'll see them here. Otherwise, I skipped that book and moved along until I found something that connected, until I had gathered the fifteen sentences, below.  I find the result surprisingly interesting. It doesn't prove much of anything, but I had fun revisiting some old friends on the bookshelves.

Choices between lies and truthful statements, therefore, exhibit the difficulties often thought to beset utilitarianism as a method for coping with moral conflict. But the problems mentioned so far might in principle be counteracted within utilitarianism. They need not invalidate the general effort to weigh factors in a moral problem. (1)  
Emotional appeals can also work as a way of supporting actual claims made in an argument. Quite often the emotion is laid atop logical propositions to make them stronger or more memorable. The technique is tricky, however. (2)  
Often, though, it is the most basic things that distract your audience. In 1954, humanist psychologist Abraham Maslow defined five basic human needs that we all try to satisfy in priority order. These five needs are: physiological. safety, belonging, self-esteem, and self-actualization. (3)  
It is instructive to remind ourselves that professional persuaders, who realize that the public at large does not always behave rationally, try themselves to arrive rationally at the persuasive techniques they apply on the "non-rational" citizen. The advertiser who sells soap or cars carefully and objectively analyzes the public "taste", its whims and fancies, its buying habits, and carefully tailors his advertising to appeal to those "whims and fancies." (4) 
Give people reasons to listen. We listen to ideas that seem tied to our lives. We want to know why we should pay attention to someone else's words. (5)

(1) Lying, Sissela Bok
(2) Everything's An Argument, Andrea A. Lunsford, John J. Ruskiewicz, Keith Walters
(3) Kruschev's Shoe, Roy Underhill
(4) Ethics of Speech Communication, Thomas R. Nielsen
(5) Public Speeking for Personal Success, Michael S. Hanna, Dick L. Stine, James W. Gibson

Monday, September 3, 2012

I Promise

May we please have less name calling and a little more open discussion?

  • If I think you are wrong, I will not call you names. I will not say that you are an idiot, or insane, or evil.
  • Your logic is probably sound. We start from different core values and first principles. We may have different loyalties. We base our conclusions on a different set of facts. 
  • I take none of these things as permission to attack you personally or to question your intentions. I won’t. I promise. I ask only for the same.
I hate it that I even felt a need to write this but if you spend any time at all on social media, especially Facebook, you've no doubt seen the steady stream, from both the left and the right, of goofy pictures, statements used out of context, rants with little substance, angry and hateful comments thrown at entire groups of good people because of a different idea about something, and so on, and on, and on. So far, the social media communication revolution has done very little to improve public discourse. It has simply made us more efficient muckrakers, complainers, and name callers.  Shame on us!

That's my opinion. If you have a different one, you're wrong. You're not stupid, or insane, or evil. You're just wrong. Let's discuss it.

k only for the same.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Just Some Facts

Just some facts from the "Who Are These Guys? Department"

Some article somewhere caught my eye tonight where it referred to Sarah Palin as the half-term Governor of Alaska. I just thought I'd check the facts and learn more about the actual candidates. I freely admit that I put only a modest effort into gathering similar facts about them. I satisfied my curiosity and collected the facts here. Draw your own conclusions. I offer none, just some facts.

Before becoming President, Barack Obama served three two-year terms as a member of the Illinois Senate and 56% of one six-year term as U.S. Senator from Illinois. Before holding elective office, he was a civil rights attorney and law professor.

Joe Biden was a city council member before becoming a U.S. Senator from Delaware. He served six terms, 36 years, in the Senate.

Mitt Romney served as President and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics, from 1999 to 2002, before election as Governor of Massachusetts. He served one four-year term. and chose not to seek reelection.

Paul Ryan was a marketing consultant for a family business for one year before becoming a U.S. Representative from Wisconsin. He is in his sixth two-year term in the House.

Footnote (because everybody has an opinion about Sarah):

Sarah Palin served four years as a city council member of Wasila, Alaska, six years as mayor, and 42% of a one four-year term as Governor of Alaska, resigning about 8 months after failing to be elected Vice President.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Self-Confidence, A Napoleon Hill Remix

#2 in a series on Think and Grow Rich (1937) by Napoleon Hill

The great strength of Hill's book is a methodical approach to marshaling our inner resources to achieve our goals and lead lives of significance. One of the building blocks in that approach  is his "Self-Confidence Formula" (p. 45 in the Tribeca Books Edition). Throughout the work, these building blocks depend on the (debatable) premise that  new attitudes inevitably lead to new behavior.

Here I offer a new version of the Self-Confidence Formula, condensed for better verbal economy and adapted to reflect my values and worldview. I have preserved the essential concepts of Hill's five steps, especially the two-part construct of awareness, followed by action (I understand... I will...).  If I depart significantly from the original, it is in step five, where I move from Hill's secular ethics toward a remix based on Christian orthodoxy, following the writing of Paul the Apostle.

Hill's self-confidence formula remixed:

  1. I know that I have the ability to achieve my goals.I will apply that ability with persistent, continuous action.
  2. I realize that my actions will follow my attitudes.
    I will invest time, daily, refining a clear mental picture of the person I am becoming.
  3. I recognize the power of confidence and positive thinking.
    I will invest time, daily, reflecting on my successes, past, present, and future.
  4. I see the importance of specific, detailed goals.
    I will put my goals in writing so that I can plan with confidence.
  5. I understand that my goals are unimportant if they are not pleasing in God’s eyes.  I will do all things excellently with compassion, kindness, gentleness, humility, patience, and most of all love, giving thanks at all times and in all circumstances.

An even shorter remix

  1. I am able.
    I will apply myself.
  2. I will develop a clear mental picture of the future.
    I will act accordingly.
  3. Action follows attitude.
    I will cultivate a positive outlook.
  4. Success requires planning.
    I will plan to succeed.
  5. In all things, I will consider the ultimate questions, the ultimate Person and the needs of others.

Start, Continue and End With Step Five

If you try to adopt any self-talk, self-help, or personal development program, you will probably fail in the long run unless you start by examining your core values and aligning your resolutions with them.  For this reason, I say start with Step Five, continue with Step Five, and end with Step Five.

Hill's Original Step Five 

I fully realize that no wealth or position can long endure, unless built upon truth and justice, therefore, I will engage in no transaction which does not benefit all whom it affects. I will succeed by attracting to myself the forces I wish to use, and the cooperation of other people. I will induce others to serve me, because of my willingness to serve others. I will eliminate hatred, envy, jealousy, selfishness, and cynicism, by developing love for all humanity, because I know that a negative attitude toward others can never bring me success. I will cause others to believe in my, because I will believe in them, and in myself.
That's pretty good stuff but too wordy for my taste. It could easily be three separate steps, one related to justice, one related to the "law of attraction", and another having to do with self-efficacy.  

Hill's Step Five is good but not quite in laser sharp alignment with my core values and worldview. Reworking this for my own purposes inevitably leads me to the scriptures. There is not a lot that is seriously wrong with Hill's version, it just doesn't go to the specific, deep foundations that I require. My thoughts on this point are informed by Paul's Letter to the Colossians 3:12-14 & 17 (NIV).
12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility,gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 
17 And whatever you do,whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
I will therefore start, continue and end, in all things considering the ultimate questions, the ultimate Person and the needs of others. I will fail from time to time. When I do, I will forgive myself, because He has already forgiven me. I will pick myself up, dust myself off, and carry on.


Hill, N. (1937) Think and grow rich. Tribeca Books / Soho Books
(NIV) THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Book Review: Think And Grow Rich (Napoleon Hill)

First in a series on Think and Grow Rich (1937) by Napoleon Hill

Over the last several months, a few friends have suggested that I read Think and Grow Rich (1937) by Napoleon Hill.  I resisted it until recently. I didn't like the title. I didn't like the emphasis on money, money, money. Most recently however, I asked Kevin Knebl how to approach certain personal goals. His answer, "Read, no STUDY Think and Grow Rich". So I did. If you ask a specific question of somebody you respect, you ought to give their answer a fair try.

Hill's book is an early classic of personal success and self-help. It probably belongs on your must-read list even if you're not using it to further your personal goals but just to understand the evolution of the genre.

In spite of the enduring popularity of Think and Grow Rich, I had a hard time navigating some passages. I was troubled by some of the things that Hill treats as axiomatic. The money, money, money mantra borders on idolatrous materialism. Hill has some ideas about spirituality and cosmology that are at times heretical and at other times just plain goofy. Written in 1937, it contains a number of dated references and some ideas that seem naive in the light of the further unfolding of history. However, to dismiss this book because of these weaknesses (or conflicts with my personal opinions, if you prefer) would be to foolishly discard a lot of good. Most valuable are numerous mental models which, along with some excellent pep talks, have the potential to help the reader reach a new level of commitment to any worthy goal and the self-confidence required to achieve it.

I'm glad that I finally invested the time to read Think and Grow Rich. Over the next few weeks, I will continue to study and write about certain passages. Overall, I imagine a tree-lined boulevard in Chicago with the trees leafing out and flowers in bloom under a bright spring sky. The big picture is impressive. The view ahead is bright and beautiful, but it was a rough winter and there are many potholes where your can blow a tire or break an ankle. Take from it whatever good you will, and find your own way to navigate the rough spots. I do not recommend that you look here for your deepest guiding philosophy and worldview. But, if you are working on your commitment and confidence, do not neglect this classic.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Get Rid Of Your IT Department!

Well, don't get rid of the department.  Just refocus it.

Early in my career, our department was called Data Processing.  A change in management led to a new name which better represented the value that we were bringing to the business - Management Information Systems - MIS.  Over the last decade or so, we seem to have become simply IT, Information Technology.  The name implies that our mission is more about technology and less about information. "Management Information" is an infrequently uttered phrase, at best.

Businesses today, especially small and medium organizations, don't need technocrats building empires based on expensive information technology infrastructures.  From a technology point of view,  they need cost-effective, reasonably current desktops, laptops, and portable devices and robust and secure networks.  With Software As A Service gaining acceptance across all sectors, the inner sanctum of the corporate data center, especially in smaller enterprises, should be on the endangered list.

The optimum technology landscape - the typical architecture (if there is such a thing) is not the  problem.  The problem is a matter of emphasis and design of the business function and the roles of the people providing it. What businesses need instead of those technocrats are business people who have a seat at the management table and who know how to apply information technology to benefit the business.  We need fewer IT people and more MIS people, fewer IT departments and more MIS departments.

Management Information Systems exist to provide answers to important business questions, enable operational efficiency, keep the regulators happy, and create competitive advantage.  The old tried and true triangle still applies.  Management Information Systems are a synergistic whole of people, processes and technology.  The purpose is not found in the technology itself.  The purpose is running the business and making it better.

Don't get me wrong.  A lot of IT Departments are providing great MIS services.  Still, most would benefit from a pause to reflect on their reason for being, and possibly a name change, to keep their real goals front and center.  All need a periodic thorough review.  Some need a blank page overhaul.

We need to focus less on getting the most out of the technology and more on getting the most out of the information we already have to improve customer service, build better mousetraps, and grow and sustain the enterprise. There is no time like the present to critically review how much money, staff time, management attention is focused on information technology instead of management information and then take steps toward a renewed focus on the important.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Having an average day? Unlikely.

It's Saturday.  A list of chores ahead, here and there, then a Project Hood fundraiser at the University of Chicago tonight.

I was wondering how many people actually say something about their real state of mind or current activities when they update their "status" on their social media site of choice.  It seems to be a minority.  It's true for me, that most of my status updates are just things that are on my mind, or that have caught a fleeting slice of my attention for a moment or two. Sometimes, I'll try to say something pithy or motivational.  Here's a hint:  When I do that, it's even odds that I'm trying to motivate myself in some way.

In the the least scientific survey ever, I skimmed my Facebook news feed to see how my friends are doing. Like most days, our lives are filled with ups and downs.  On average, it's an average day.

Here's what some of you had to say.  You might recognize your own update but for your protection, I'm pretty sure that I've omitted any personally identifiable information. Thanks for sharing!

Feeling very manly today doing some home repairs. I will not tell you what it is because I do not want you to know how minor a big project is around this house.

Graduation, birthday, and Grandwood Park parties today...whew, hope I can take all the fun! But first, 6 miles on the river trail...

Another bad night. No restful sleep. Exhausted and excruciating headache this morning.

Wonderrful day yesterday. Nice hike with the family (including seeing a toad up close), drive along Lake Superior, lunch at The Hut, naps, dinner at the beach (including a thunderstorm) and watching a small spider build a web. Awesome!

Bastille Day! It is also my father's birthday. So many feelings! About revolution, oppression, those who betray the revolution... about my Dad, getting up before dawn to go fishing with him in the Rogue River, Oregon, and his great intelligence and rational discussion, his sexism and paternalistic ways, of his integrity and compassion... So many thoughts and feelings for one small day.


so... fate has it that our plans of binge drinking at 'la bastille', followed by authentic chinese food and visiting sleazy whore bars in the red light area have to be postponed. i myself have headache, clogged sinuses and a slight fever.

Nice, stiff black coffee and the Internet. Pure bliss.

More fantastic news. Joshua's friend Darota has come off the ventilator!

Stiff, sore and unbelievably achy all over this am, but I will go out for another walk. The Walk Boss decrees it must happen...

Morning, nothing quite like a late(ish) lie in, then it will be off to the Zoo with some friends.


On average, it seems like an average day.  But, when it's your life, averages don't matter much.  When you're down, you're down, and you hope somebody will come along and pick you up.  When you're up, you're up.  You're happy.  Be grateful but observant.  If you see somebody who's down, offer what you can, extend a hand, be willing to help them up.

Have a better than average day!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What Lies Beneath Microsoft's Surface?

Microsoft made a big splash in the muddy waters of tablets and personal computing devices yesterday with the announcement of its new Windows 8 tablet called Surface. Surface will come in two models, "RT" and "Pro". So far, most of the reaction among the technopundits is about the hardware and the competition for the consumer infotainment dollar. How good is the screen? Is the external keyboard any good?  Is it really a threat to the iPad? What about Android?

The most important part of this news, obscured by all of the chatter about the gadget itself, is the operating system, Windows 8. When we talk about Surface, we have to talk about what makes it run.  We have to talk about Surface and Windows 8 at the same time, as though they were one product.

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer answered the most important question that corporate IT people should be asking. Will it run my corporate applications? In broad terms, the answer appears to be yes. The introduction of Surface and Windows 8 appears to be exactly what a lot of business technology people have been waiting for - the ability to run things like the SAP GUI thick client or other Windows-based business applications on a truly full-featured, portable device. Imagine being able to scan bar codes, take pictures of damaged goods, work directly in the Windows-based ERP application, make a VOIP call, send and receive corporate email, edit Office documents, access web apps, and whatever else you do, all on one device, with a familiar operating system. Imagine not having to use three devices and a pocket full of flash drives to get through the day. You won't have to email files to yourself and wait until you get back to your PC in another building, or another city, to finish that important report. Imagine administrators managing these devices with all of the familiar tools in their existing Windows infrastructure. This could be the technological convergence that IT Directors have been waiting for.  It could be a game changer.

What might prevent the the few sample machines and a lot of hype from becoming widely deployed reality?  If Windows 8 and this hardware cannot truly support most legacy Windows applications, the game will not change. But if Microsoft gets this right, the game will change. People will stop sneering when they hear "PC", because Microsoft will have delivered everything that a truly personal computer can be.

If the first devices and first release of Windows 8 come are delivered in Microsoft's usual style, they won't be perfect.  They'll be pretty good, with enormous potential. Look for Service Pack 1 (SP1) within six months of the initial release of Windows 8 and Surface 2 hardware before 2015. Look for a constant stream of patches for Windows 8. At the same time, look for Surface & Windows 8 to eat a lot of the Android tablet market share. Android is just not sufficiently established in the enterprise environment to stand up to a well-executed tablet and OS from Microsoft.  Also look for Surface / Win 8 to take a few bites out of the Apple too. People want one computing experience for work and play. For many, Surface / Win 8 has the potential to give them what they want. All of this is possible if Microsoft gets it right and what's lies beneath the Surface rises above the hype.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Perennial Proactive Customer Service @AmericanAir

These last two days are starting to look like a marketing campaign for American Airlines.  It isn't.  I have no connection to the company apart from being a loyal customer and fan.  

Yesterday I wrote about the customer service tweeps at American, Delta, and United based on just a couple of personal interactions with @AmericanAir and a fun little experiment. More comprehensively, my total experience with the company across several decades and a very positive story told by my cousin, Anna Darden, prompt the following observation.

American Airlines exhibits a deep and long-lasting culture of proactive customer service. They understand customer needs, based on information they already have, and take the initiative to provide service  without waiting to be asked.  Individual employees do things for their customers that can only happen because the company has systems and processes in place that grow out of this culture.

In the late 80's, I was travelling from Newark (EWR) to Los Angeles (LAX) with a change in Dallas (DFW).  It was true then and is still true that operations at EWR, with its problematic runway configuration and congested airspace can get sticky in even the least of inclement weather.

That night, a winter storm was pouring snow and ice on the airport for hours.  We left well over an hour late, after multiple false starts and two deicings of our DC-10.  My connection time at DFW was 40 minutes. In those days, information was a lot harder to come by.  With a current pocket edition of the Official Airline Guide (remember the OAG?), I figured out that there was a way to grab a later flight from DFW to Las Vegas (LAS) and then from LAS to LAX.  It would take most of the night, but I would be able to appear for my 9:00 AM meeting the next day.

As it turned out, there was no need for all of that speculation and worry.  American had a plan and used the information they already had to serve their customers.  They knew that more than a dozen passengers on that flight from Newark were in the same situation.  At DFW agents met the flight with signs and golf carts to take all of us as quickly as possible to the flight to LAX that they were holding for us!  They got us and our baggage transferred quickly, closed the doors and took to the air.  We arrived in LA only about ten minutes behind schedule, in plenty of time to get a good night's sleep and do more than simply appear at my meeting the next day.

You say they never do things like that any more?  That airline employees don't care like they used to?  Of course they do!  Last week, my cousin Anna traveled from Cleveland, Ohio to Manchester, England, with a change of planes AND AIRPORTS in New York.  Here is her story:

We flew AA from Cleveland to England and I was very pleased. We did have the change of airports and all, but the flight attendant came to us about 20 minutes before landing and confirmed our itinerary for us and even gave us directions.
The transfer from LGA to JFK was pretty smooth. When Adam went to purchase the shuttle tickets, the attendant informed him that for 3 people we would be better off taking a cab. It ended up being about $7 cheaper. Upon arrival at JFK the cab driver tried to tell us we were going to the wrong gate but luckily we knew better. Paid for curb side check-in (very good choice considering the line inside). At the gate I was called to the desk where they changed our seats to allow a designated attendant "bunk". Again, that was fine by me as we were all still together. It ended up being a double edged dagger though as we were the last row LOL. Nobody behind us to kick our seats but of course the bathrooms were in high demand on a 7 hour flight. The attendants were great with [my son] Dewey and were constantly complimenting him and us for his good behavior and amazingly good looks. He also got a signed flight diary from the pilot. Ultimately, we were VERY pleased with the service. I will be using AA in the future.
That's perennial proactive customer service, consistent for decades!  I too will be using AA in the future.

It's true.  Air travel isn't what it used to be, even when you're flying with the best.  The broader lesson here is not just about American Airlines or even the airline industry. It is about how to do relationship marketing.  Take care of your customer.  Put systems and process in place that enable proactive customer service.  Create a culture of caring for the people you serve.  That's how you create loyalty and get your customers coming back for more, for decades.

Friday, June 15, 2012

@AmericanAir - Best Corporate Tweep!

I've read several articles lately about the customer service folks at major airlines who respond to passenger messages via Twitter. Last week, I had my first Twitter exchange with the people at American Airlines.  They were quick, friendly, and helpful.

This morning I tried a little experiment.  I posted something silly mentioning American, Delta, and United, just to see how they would handle it.  Do they have a sense of humor?  Are they willing to just say "Hi" or maybe even "LOL"?

Here's what I posted at exactly 6:00 AM, Central Time:
Excuse me    May I please go very, very far on a very, very big plane? Thank you. Have a very, very nice day.
American come back with this at 6:53 AM.
doug_picirillo Please let us know if we can help you in any way, Doug. Have a great day!
They were not super quick.  In fairness, they didn't need to be.  Maybe my message caught them a little off-guard.  I imagine a Customer Service Twagent (I just made that up! ) calling a supervisor over and asking, "What do we do with something like this? Ignore it?  Answer it?  Answer it how?"  However it happened, somebody on the other end was willing to represent their company and say something friendly and kind to somebody who poked them, in fun, at six o'clock in the morning.  Maybe they checked a list and found that  I've been an AAdvantage member for thirty years, almost since the program's inception.  Who knows?  At the end of the day, they responded as a human being to another human being who wanted nothing more than a response.

Neither Delta nor United responded at all.  Either they have no sense of humor, they are terribly understaffed (which can be the cause of no sense of humor), or they have a policy that prohibits small talk with current or potential customers.

The envelope, please....

Doug Picirillo's irregular and completely unscientific
Best Corporate Tweep Award
goes to American Airlines!

Customer Service Dodo Awards
go to Delta Airlines

and United Airlines

Better luck next time!

For a more serious look at airline customer service Twitter trends, check out this guest post on SimpliFlying, A Tweet by Tweet Analysis of US Airlines

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Generously Asking For Help

Are you a natural helper?  Do you find joy and satisfaction in serving others?  Most people do.  Even those who see service as a duty or a moral obligation experience the joy of service, only somewhat less directly.  They are pleased and satisfied more by having done their duty, than by the act of service itself. In either mode, we often receive even more than we give.  When we serve others, whether out of joyful duty, or out of naked sacrifice, the satisfaction that comes from that service can reinforce the attitude of service and generosity, and lead to a lifetime pattern of rewarding behavior.

But what happens when we ourselves need help?  If you are like me, you often find it hard to ask for help in things large and small.  Why?  Because we have an inflated view of our own capacity for self-reliance?  Because we don't want to admit that we just can't do everything for ourselves all of the time?  Because we don't want to be a burden?  There is an easy way out of these self-defeating ideas that will resonate with your generous soul.  When you need help, ask for it out of generosity.  Remember the satisfaction that you feel when you make a difference for somebody else.  When you invite somebody to serve you, you are offering the other an opportunity to experience that same satisfaction.

When you have an opportunity to serve, serve generously.  When you need help, ask generously.  When you are grateful, offer thanks generously.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Structure of U.S. Presidential Race Shows Little Change So Far

Structure of U.S. Presidential Race Shows Little Change So Far

According to the latest Gallup numbers, the President and Mr. Romney are running neck and neck for the second straight month.  Have voters already made up their minds?  What will cause one of the candidates to surge ahead?  Some major domestic or world event?  Spin and rhetoric?  So far, the only detectable trend is that the nonreligious and those with "no religion" (you'll have to ask Gallup about the difference) are moving into the incumbent's column.  This movement however is offset by small gains by Mr. Romney in a broad range of subgroups.  On the surface, this might suggest a weakening of the President's strategic position.  It would be a huge gamble to openly and specifically appeal to the nonreligious.  At the same time, any appeal designed to stem the apparent trend of slow erosion across a broad spectrum of voters is likely be general, vague, and personal.  Let's hope that personal appeals, from either side, will be strengths-based and not degenerate into "politics as usual."

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Mother The Pilgrim

My Mom was a many things to many people, but she was more things to me than she was to anybody else.  She was a bundle of contradictions, at times in a deep and protracted struggle with her disappointments, at other times miraculously generous, going far, far out of her way to help and inspire others.  She was a child of the Roaring 20s, a teenager of the Great Depression and a young adult of the Greatest Generation.  She grew up in a world that told strong, smart women like her, with great and varied aptitudes for science, math, arts, and letters, that she should learn shorthand and bookkeeping.  After World War II, she left her familiar surroundings of Northeast Ohio and made it on her own in graphic arts in Chicago, and in staffing and recruiting in New York, where she became a Mother.

We moved to Ohio for a while, to live with my grandparents.  She continued to work in staffing and recruiting in Canton and Cleveland.  Somewhere along the way, her pilgrimage took a different direction.  I don't know whether it was a conversion or an awakening, or what she would call it, but it was a clear turning point.  She quit the personnel business and went to work for the First Presbyterian Church of Akron, while also becoming heavily involved with the North Canton Baptist Temple.  Soon, we moved back to New York, where she went to work for the United Church Board for World Ministries, then the Pension Board of the American Baptist Convention, and finally the First Presbyterian Church of Brooklyn, whence she retired after 16 years of service.

Throughout her journey, her vocation, avocations, ideas and attitudes had the hallmarks of a pilgrim's progress. She believed in sacrifice, providing more for me and for others than for herself.  She believed in heroes, famous and obscure, of the world stage, of the silver screen and of everyday life, from Dwight Eisenhower, to the characters played by John Wayne, to her brother Ray and her uncle Tom.  She knew exile.  In broken relationships, untapped talents, and evaporated dreams, she knew what it was like to live far apart from one's mortal aspirations.  She was passionate, especially when she became interested in a cause.  She was passionate about doing the right thing, and doing the right thing the right way.  She believed in justice, inclusion, and equality. In my earliest recollection of a conversation about race, she taught me not to follow my Grandmother's example when, speaking from ignorance, she used the "N word" to refer to a neighbor's household help.

Ultimately, my Mom's pilgrimage was grounded in inspiration. This was hard to see for those who only knew her in her later years, which were often times of suffering and confusion, but I know the spark that was there before and that never went out.  She believed in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth and in his Son, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  I can think of nothing that would please her more than to acknowledge this truth.  She was inspired by the words of the scriptures, the great preachers of the Gospel, and the hymns.  For her, the reality and mystery of the Trinity could not be better described than the words of three hymns. Of God the Father, in Martin Luther's words, "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, a bulwark never failing!"  Of God the Son, in Joseph Scriven's words, "What A Friend We Have In Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!" And perhaps most deeply, of God the Holy Spirit, through the words of Edwin Hatch:

Breathe on me, breath of God,
Fill me with life anew,
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do.
Breathe on me, breath of God,
Until my heart is pure,
Until with Thee I will one will,
To do and to endure.
Breathe on me, breath of God,
Blend all my soul with Thine,
Until this earthly part of me
Glows with Thy fire divine.
Breathe on me, breath of God,
So shall I never die,
But live with Thee the perfect life
Of Thine eternity.

Mom, you have long ago departed this imperfect life. You pilgrimage here is complete. Now you are with Him in Eternity.  May those you left behind, run as good a race, as noble a pilgrimage as you did.  Thank you, Mom!  We will see you soon.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

That's a relief!

I was worried that this fall's U.S. presidential election was going to get bogged down in small matters like the ongoing economic malaise and the broadening disregard for the Constitution.  Thanks to Mr. Obama's statements yesterday, we won't be discussing those things for a while.  Phew!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Doubt, Imagination, and Hope

I doubt it.
A series of essays based on “21 Things to Give Up For Lent”.  These thoughts are every bit as much about things that I would hope to improve in my own journey as they are offerings to any who stop by this blog.

Topic #21: Doubt

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1, NIV)

Can we truly give up doubt?  No.  Should we?  No.  Every one of us, even the most rational and analytical people we know, lives in a state of permanent tension between doubt and faith.  Some of us more readily acknowledge this tension than others.  For all of us, doubt can at times be a debilitating paralytic, and at other times, a whetstone on which we may sharpen our ideas.

In our everyday lives, we make certain assumptions about what will happen today, tomorrow, next week, or next year.  We live hopefully, buying cars and houses on long-term credit, thinking years, even decades ahead.  We enroll in degree programs that will take years to complete.  Our professional sports teams sign athletes to multi-year contracts, hoping for long periods of good health and high performance.  We plan for our children’s educations, our own retirement and other long term goals.  These are all expressions of faith and hope in the unseen future.  We expect that tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that, will come and go without mishap or tragedy. At the same time, we acknowledge the element of doubt in all of these things.  We buy insurance.  We have fire and tornado and earthquake drills at school and at work.  We hope for the best, but plan for the worst.  Deep down, we know that every tomorrow will not bring the best of all possible outcomes in all areas of our lives.  We hope that life will go according to plan, but we doubt it.

We who profess faith in God live with one foot in the present and the other in eternity.  We may seem to have few doubts about the ultimate questions, but to be completely free of doubt is neither possible nor wise.  Without doubt, we cannot adequately define and refine our faith.  Without doubt, we can become lazy, making no effort to understand and defend our faith.  The Apostle Peter wrote, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (I Peter 3:15, NIV)  Doubt does not weaken faith.  Doubt challenges us to understand what we believe and to be prepared to explain and defend our faith.  Doubt makes faith stronger.

For those who do not believe in God, those who believe that this life is all there is, I would commend to you as well, the value of doubt.  Do not be so sure of the results of your reasoning that you are unwilling to investigate and understand the reasonable conclusions of faith.  Atheist-turned-Christian Lee Strobel, the former award-winning legal editor of The Chicago Tribune, said "It was the evidence from science and history that prompted me to abandon my atheism and become a Christian."  Let your reason lead you where it will, not where your current faith in previous arguments tells you where it will go.  Hold on to your legitimate doubts until they are outweighed by something else.  At the same time, listen with your heart, even with your imagination.  As C.S. Lewis said, “Reason is the natural order of truth, but imagination is the organ of meaning.”

Therefore do not give up doubt, but do give up being ruled by doubt.  Doubt itself is not an answer. Doubt drives us toward better answers.  Let it be the adversary in your inner court of reason; but when it has made its case, let it be done.  Let doubt be still when what you believe has been thoroughly tested and you have become able to give the reason for the hope that you have.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

21 Things To Give Up For Lent (15-21)

  1. GREED "If you live squinty-eyed in greed and distrust, your body is a dank cellar." Matthew 6:22-23 (MSG)
  2. THINKING YOU KNOW IT ALL "It's what you learn after you know it all that counts." John Wooden
  3. HOARDING "We are not cisterns made for hoarding, we are channels made for sharing." Billy Graham
  4. ENVY "Envy is an insult to oneself." Yevgeny Yevtushenko
  5. BOREDOM "Boredom is rage spread thin." Paul Tillich 
  6. RAGE "People who fly into a rage always make a bad landing." Will Rogers
  7. DOUBT "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see." Hebrews 11:1
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Monday, February 20, 2012

21 Things To Give Up For Lent (8-14)

  1. STAGNATION "Change your thoughts and you change your world." Norman Vincent Peale
  2. PROMISE BREAKING Remember your promises. Deliver. Period.
  3. PROCRASTINATION "If you put off everything till you're sure of it, you'll never get anything done." Norman Vincent Peale
  4. RESENTMENT. "Resentment is like taking poison and waiting for the other person to die." Malachy McCourt
  5. INCONSISTENCY. "I try to be the same person I was yesterday." Colin Powell
  6. SHORTSIGHTEDNESS. "Imagination is the true magic carpet." Norman Vincent Peale
  7. VERBOSITY. "Brevity is the soul of wit." William Shakespeare
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Sunday, February 19, 2012

21 Things To Give Up For Lent (1-7)

  1. FEAR "For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind." 2 Timothy 1:7
  2. DISCONTENT "Gratitude changes the pangs of memory into a tranquil joy." Dietrich Bonhoeffer
  3. GOSSIP "Gossips can't keep secrets, so never confide in blabbermouths." Proverbs 20:19 (The Message)
  4. IRRITABILITY "Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult." Proverbs 12:16 (NIV)
  5. SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS "If you judge people, you have no time to love them." Mother Teresa
  6. DESPAIR "Everything that is done in the world is done by hope." Martin Luther
  7. SILENCE "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter." Martin Luther King, Jr.
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