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Category Archives: Random

Reasons to avoid talking on the phone

It’s ironic that the device I use the most is also the one I can’t stand using. At least part of it.

Today I made airline reservations and was forced to call Delta to speak to an actual human. Four times. The first representative couldn’t help me so she transferred me to another department. But we got cut off, so I had to call back and re-explain the issue to someone I knew couldn’t help. The second rep gave me the number to call directly to the online support desk. So I did, but unfortunately she gave me the number to Delta’s internal IT service desk. For employees. Call #3 fail. Finally the fourth call was the charm and a supervisor was able to override whatever systems were creating the havoc to begin with.

This issue is a microcosm of why I hate talking on the phone. But it’s more than that. I will do almost anything to avoid talking on the phone. Here are a few reasons why…

  1. The delay. Incredible that cell phone providers haven’t improved this. After 20 years, callers still stammer through pauses between speakers and then end up talking over each other because neither party hears the other. This timing problem makes having a normal conversation so difficult.
  2. The abyss. Don’t call me and stay on the line unnecessarily without saying anything. Get to the point. Time’s a wastin! And it’s disrespectful to take up someone’s time for nothing.
  3. The clueless helper. How many customer phone reps does it take to change a lightbulb? The reason I avoid calling to speak with someone like the plague is that they don’t know what the hell they’re doing, if they can even grasp my issue from their call center in India or South America. It’s just so much easier to fix it yourself online.
  4. The bad timing. Inevitably the phone starts vibrating when you can least get to it. When your arms are full of grocery bags; when you’re running late to drop off the kids; or in general when you can’t be bothered. Yet you can’t NOT answer the phone because you never know what emergency lies on the other end.

There are so many reasons why, but before you think I’m some sort if grumpy curmudgeon, read what The Oatmeal says on the subject. They sum it up better than I can…

 

 
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Posted by on May 21, 2012 in Random, Thoughts, Uncategorized

 

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No monkeying around: My 10-year-old has a blog

My 10-year-old “baby” boy is blogging. This is the new normal.

I don’t know if should be worried or proud.

But one thing’s for sure…the kid’s got initiative.

See, somewhere he heard that certain species of monkeys are endangered. In his research, he found the World Wildlife Fund website and discovered their adoption program. For $50 you can select an animal species to adopt and WWF sends you a certificate with photos and info about the actual animal you select in the wild. The money goes to conservation, habitat preservation, and supporting the long-term survival of the species.

He has chosen to save the monkeys.

And he’s not stopping at one. He wants to raise $100 to adopt two animals.

And in less than two hours today he had his own blog on WordPress (with a little help from Dad, but not much)! As of this writing, he has already collected $33.11.

So visit his site at bensavesthemonkeys.wordpress.com and consider donating to his cause.* He has pledged to keep his site updated with his fundraising progress, and if you give money, he will send you a copy of the adoption certificate.

*Secure donations can be made with credit cards made through Dad’s PayPal account.

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Posted by on March 28, 2012 in Family, Random, Thoughts

 

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Who would make your starting 5? Here’s mine.

This week marked the 50th anniversary of Wilt Chamerlain’s indelible 100-point game. So in honor of this unmatched feat, I’m taking a look at the best players of all time; or rather, the best in my lifetime. Since I wasn’t around to see the Archibalds, Russells, and Havlicek’s of the world, I’m limiting my study to the last 40-something years.

My criteria are simple – the best players at their position since 1970. I’m picking a starting 5 and a backup at each position. As with any ranking list, it’s totally subjective and there are reasonable alternatives, but that’s OK. Take a look at my picks and then tell me who would make your team in the comments.

Here’s my team…

— POINT GUARD —

Earvin “Magic” Johnson
Los Angeles Lakers 1979-1991, 1996

The point guard: Magic Johnson.

I needed some convincing to put Magic in the starting point guard spot. For some reason the guy just seems a little fakey to me, but after further reflection, the choice was obvious. Nobody had more charisma, leadership and “magic” than Earvin. He could play all five positions. He was the leader on a team of stars, invented the no-look pass, and his numbers simply speak for themselves.

Career accomplishments:

Close second: Jason Kidd.

— SHOOTING GUARD —

Michael Jordan
Chicago Bulls 1984-1998, Washington Wizards 2001-2003

The shooting guard: Michael Jordan.

Volumes have been written about this legend, so there’s not much more I can add. I remember watching him on TV and thinking to myself that no one will ever be as great. Then while working for the Spurs, I had the privilege of meeting and interviewing MJ in a post-game locker room interview during his comeback/farewell tour with Washington. I’ll never forget it. The greatest player of all time. End of story.

Career accomplishments:

Close second: Kobe Bryant.

— POWER FORWARD —

Tim Duncan
San Antonio Spurs 1993-present

The power forward: Tim Duncan.

Maybe a homer call here, but it’s hard to put anyone else in the same class as The Big Fundamental. His skills and quickness have diminished now to the point that it’s almost hard to remember how dominant the guy was in his prime. But keep in mind that it took Tim’s arrival in San Antonio to put another great player, David Robinson, over the top to a championship. With the best footwork of any big man ever, Duncan is also the most unassuming anti-star, and best overall team player — which makes this an easy call.

Career accomplishments:

Close second: Charles Barkley.

— SMALL FORWARD —

Larry Bird
Boston Celtics 1979 – 1992

The small forward: Larry Bird.

Larry Legend was literally awesome — and awe-inspiring — to watch. Perhaps the best passer in history, and without a doubt the best clutch shooter in history. At the end of the game, there was no one you wanted to have the ball more than Bird. As a 76ers fan growing up, I dreaded Celtics games because Boston always dominated the matchup. Sporting a weird looking set shot, he had a killer instinct, knowing exactly when to step on the opponent’s throat.

Career accomplishments:

Close second: Julius Erving.

— CENTER —

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Milwaukee Bucks, Milwaukee Bucks 1969-1975, Los Angeles Lakers – 1975 – 1989

The center: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

The all-time leading scorer with an unfathomable 38,387 points, he won six championships on two teams. Invented the unblockable “sky hook,” making him virtually unguardable in the post. He earned an incredible 19 all-star appearances and was MVP of the league six times.

Career accomplishments:

Close second: Shaquille O’Neal.

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2012 in Random, Sports, Thoughts

 

The five ugliest (yet most successful) websites

Content is king. That’s the time-honored lesson you learn when you study web design and management. So perhaps it isn’t surprising that some of the most hideously designed sites are also the most successful.

For a business site, design does matter because a company’s brand is riding on the user experience. But for other types of sites, ugly just works. When design surpasses content and functionality, the user can feel left out, as if they are not getting the most from their visit. So some sites take advantage of this principle, and thrive on simplicity and lack of design.

So without further ado, here are my choices for the ugliest, yet most successful, websites.

5) Ebay. It’s a miracle that anyone can get anything done on this site. Navigation and content are all over the place, account settings are buried under mountains of navigation menus. Yet ebay remains the category killer for online classifieds.

4) Craigslist. Not to be outdone for simplicity,this classifieds site is the epitome of bare bones. Not a graphic to be found, 100% text, and no frills. But, for millions of users, it gets the job done.

3) Huffington Post. One of the best aggregators of content on the entire world wide web. Also one of the worst designed. It’s like someone threw up on the page. The Drudge Report follows a similar, design-despising structure, but the powerful content keeps users coming back. And the site has undergone some face-lifting lately that give users just enough structure and navigation to balance the eye sore a bit.

2) Amazon. Yes I know I’m an admitted Amazon addict. But the site — come on, big-time atrocious. The product description is found where? Oh, of course, down about 3/4 of the page below all the other items you might want to click on and lose track of your original purchase. And yet it works. How can something so bad be so good?

1) YouTube. This site was born during the dark ages of the Internet and essentially gave birth to video online. Despite an unbelievably bad design and user interface, it rakes in over 3 billion views per day, with 48 hours of video uploaded every minute. Simply staggering, especially considering how difficult it is to do. Again it goes to show how content rules.

So there you have it. For my money, the five best worst websites in the world. I’m sure there are others that are in the same league — so let’s hear it. What are your picks?

 
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Posted by on February 27, 2012 in Business, Random, Work

 

Why Amazon is becoming the real best buy

Like all red-blooded American consumers, I receive 5-7 packages a week from Amazon.

Wait, what? You don’t?

OK, I admit I have an Amazon addiction. But I can stop anytime, I swear. See, for $80 a year with Amazon’s Prime service, I get free 2-day shipping and pay no sales tax on most orders. Prime also gives you free access to Amazon’s video streaming content, but the selection is lame so that’s not really a consideration.

Best Buy

Amazon's Showroom: Best Buy.

Amazon warehouse

One of Amazon's warehouses: where the real magic happens.

What’s happening in retail is interesting, and it’s making the national big box stores sweat bullets. Physical stores, which spend millions in bricks and mortar, inventory, staff, and advertising, have essentially become Amazon’s showroom.

Best Buy’s impending death has been frequently documented. Target, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Kohl’s are also feeling the pinch. After all, who doesn’t like going to squeeze the Charmin in person, scanning the bar code with the Amazon iPhone app, and then buying it for an average of 11% less with one click?

So what can stores do to combat this momentum?

1) Beat Amazon on price. This one is difficult. Since most of these stores deal largely in commodities, profit margins are already razor-thin. Some retailers are experimenting with in-store discounts by using their special financing deals. Target, for example, gives you 5% off for using their Red card, which is simply a debit card tied to your bank account.

2) Provide other services that can’t be matched online. It’s still more convenient to get your computer serviced at a local store than shipping it to some unknown location. And stores that combine experiences such as eating and shopping (Ikea, Costco), or groceries and electronics (Super Target), for example, make it more tempting to shop locally. Moreover, immediacy is still an advantage. Two-day shipping is not same day delivery. When you gotta have it now, nothing online will do.

3) Create exclusive products. The box stores could develop strategic product lines that are unique to their stores. While this may work for some consumers who care most about features, many are more motivated by price and are likely to forgo the latest product features in lieu of a cheaper overall price tag.

That’s about the best advice I’ve got for the big box retailers. Not an easy proposition, obviously. But it is an interesting study in modern capitalism. What do you think? Are there other things retail stores can do to survive? Or are you already an Amazon addict like me?

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2012 in Business, Random, Thoughts

 

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6 ways to stay positive in any situation

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I saw this blog post the other day and thought it had a nice sentiment on how to stay positive even when things are down. If you don’t want to click over, here’s what it said…

The power of remaining positive, whatever the situation, can never be underestimated. We are all here for a limited period of time, is it worth it to spend any of that time in a dismal mood? Being negative?

The true test of an individual to remain positive is when challenges become difficult. Remaining positive keeps one’s mind in the right state of balance and often opens resolutions to the problems at hand. Negativity is contagious; not only does it affect the individual, but it spreads to anyone they interact with. When only the negative perspective is in focus, the resolution process is impeded.

Eliminating negativity, or rather, being positive is a mindset that can be found at any moment, and turned into a habit. Here are some tips that can help you in shifting your mindset:

1. Shift Your Thoughts – Be conscious of your thoughts. Especially, when life just isn’t going your way. The moment you see that you are diving into frustration, agony, sorrow and low self-esteem – shift your thoughts, by thinking about something completely unrelated. This breaks the pattern of self-pity, mind-created stories, and negative downward spiral. What makes us different from other mammals is our ability to control our thoughts and think for ourselves.

2. Find the Lesson – There is a lesson to be learned from every situation. No matter how unfortunate the situation may appear, recognize the beautiful lessons waiting to be discovered. Sometimes lessons are expensive, but every problem is a learning opportunity in disguise. You may have made a mistake, but now you can accept it and continue, knowing that you will make a different decision in the future. Understand this and be appreciative for the experience.

3. Attitude of Gratitude – You cannot be both angry and grateful at the same time. Start counting the blessings and miracles in your life, start looking for them and you shall find more. What’s there not to be grateful? You are alive and breathing! Realize how lucky you are and all the abundance in your life.

4. Positive Affirmations & Visualization – Practice seeing yourself in a positive and confident light. Do this whenever you have a few minutes (examples; Waiting for a friend, sitting on the bus, riding an elevator.) Self-affirmations (list of positive statements about yourself and your self image) are another simple and powerful tool to train your subconscious to see yourself in a positive light. This is important, as many of us can be so hard on ourselves though social conditioning. I am guilty of being extra tough on myself, but have learned over time to recognize my gifts rather than finding false and self-imposed inadequacies.

5. Inventory of Memories – Keep an inventory of memories that can immediately make you smile. Occasions where you felt happy, appreciative and cheerful. When you were at peace with the world.

Whenever you are in a negative frame of mind, consciously and deliberately pick up any leaf out of this inventory and dwell on it. Reminiscing those happy moments gives a balanced perspective to your situation. You realize that what appears negative today will change tomorrow. Nothing stays the same.

6. Criticizing Detox Diet – Change your approach and attitude. See if you can stop criticizing others and situations. Our cultural conditioning teaches us to find flaws and problems at all times. Shift from fault-finding to appreciation-finding.

Whether you are positive or negative, the situation does not change. So, we mind as well be positive.

As with any habit, the habit of remaining positive in all situations takes practice and a commitment to yourself to take control. But start small, start paying attention to your emotions, start by wanting to change. I am working on this constantly, and I am here with you, working towards better understanding of my emotions and becoming a better person. Keep going at it, and you will gradually become a positive energy source for the others around you! Wouldn’t that be empowering?

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2012 in Family, Random, Thoughts, Work

 

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Which brands can you not live without?

What do Coca-Cola, Harley-Davidson, McDonald’s, and Disney all have in common? They’re all in the top 100 best global brands of 2011. A strong brand can be the difference between being Facebook or MySpace, Best Buy or Circuit City. In other words, brand is one of the fundamental keys to business survival.

Many things influence a customer’s perception of a company brand — but for me, two of the most important are product effectiveness and emotional connection. That is, how well does the brand’s widget function, and how does it make you feel.

So without further ado, here are the top 5 brands in my book…

5. Southwest Airlines From the innovative ticketing system to the non-reserved seats, on-time and highly reliable flights, and employees who “luv” their jobs — everything SWA does makes you want to fly with them again next time. I once tweeted about an issue with my Rewards account and a social media rep got back to me within 5 minutes. SWA just gets it.
4. Lexus – Uncommon service, high-performing, ahead-of-their-time vehicles, and massages while you wait. Lexus thinks of absolutely everything.
3. Amazon – Everything under the sun delivered to your door in 2 days, plus unmatched customer service and simple returns. Amazon is a system that works end to end.
2. Starbucks – Consistent quality, great tasting products, and imitators just won’t do (although the Keurig does come close) ;-). There’s nothing better than a Starbucks Americano, in my Lexus, on the way to the airport to catch a Southwest flight.
1. Apple – iPhone. iPad. Macbook. I’ve used all three in the creation of this blog post. Their products are the definition of innovation, they’re fun, and they just work. Apple is pretty darn close to perfection.

Agree or disagree with these? What brands do you love so much that you just couldn’t live without them? Let me know!

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2012 in Random, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Work

 

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