Month: July 2009

Another example of just how small the world really is

Blue Like JazzWhat are the odds?

A while back I wrote my first (and so far, only) post using a specific set of guidelines under the title of, “The random image project.” FYI, the basic idea for the series is to generate creativity within constraints. You can find the post here, but the reason I mention it is this:

In the post I reference a book called Blue Like Jazz, written by Donald Miller. It’s a great book with an interesting point of view, and one I encourage anyone to read if you get the chance. What I didn’t know when it was given to me, or when I read it, or even the years that have followed, is that I went to school with the author.

My memory from those days is a little fuzzy, but I remember him as being a genuinely nice guy. So, as a shout-out to Donald, take some time and check out either this book or the others that follow. I think you’ll enjoy what you find.

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Zombies and pedicures

Zombie March Chicago 2009

You might be wondering what could these two things possibly have in common. Other than the former could probably really, really use the latter, I mean. The answer is that they were both topics covered in a rather odd meeting at work not long ago.

I guess ‘meeting’ is a bit of a misnomer. It was actually a group of about 15 people hanging out in a conference room during lunch on a Friday, laughing and chowing down on greek-style pizza, kicking-off our first  Pecha Kucha party.

In a nutshell, Pecha Kucha is a presentation where a brave soul queues up 20 images or slides and delivers a presentation dedicating twenty seconds per image. Meaning, each presenter gets up and does their thing for a total of 6 minutes and 40 seconds.

Awesome.

The topics, as you might have noticed, can be just about anything. Zack’s presentation on zombies – and I had no idea zombie culture is as popular as it is – had us shaking our heads and cracking up, one after the other. MB had us all convinced that the secret to productivity at work was to take the time to give your toes some love.

Am I a total nerd, or does this seem like something that would be fun to do at a party? (If you’re in the Austin area, you can check out a local gathering here)

Photo by Eric Ingrum

A word or two on service

customer service

I think it’s fair to say that when I first started at Hoover’s I had a little difficulty adjusting to an office gig. Which is remarkable, considering just how laid-back the organization and culture is at the office. Consider – in the four or so years I’ve been there I’ve worn slacks into the office twice and I think I’ve only tucked in my shirt a few more times than that.

Still, going from bartender and freelance writer to sitting at a cube and interacting professionally with people every Monday through Friday was a challenge.

In the years that have passed (although it’s infinitely more difficult without an oak bar between me and them) I’ve slowly gotten better at that interaction. My language is sometimes inexcusably inappropriate, but, luckily, they cut me some slack knowing that I’m working on it.

In any case, in all that time, it’s always been fairly clear to me that everyone at Hoover’s takes treating the customer right pretty seriously. It’s one of the things that makes working there something I can (genuinely) be proud of. And, because the economy is what it is, it’s something all of us have been keenfully aware just how important it is to keep doing well. 

Which is why I’m so irritated about a personal situation, I felt the need to tell you about it.  

The short version is this: the contract for our pest service was up as of April and Sarah and I have been checking out options for a new vendor. Last Thursday, or old vendor came out during the day, treated our home (we have a system that allows them to do everything from outside) then left an invoice for about 30% higher than we paid before.

This is after we cancelled our service with them in April.

So I’ve spent the last few days, original contract in hand, arguing with their office. And I’m not trying to get over – it was time for a treatment, and even though we’d cancelled our service with them we haven’t yet found a replacement; so I’m happy to pay for the services we received. Just not at a 30% mark-up. And still they argue.

Sarah and I, in our original contract, decided to pay for the entire year of service up front. So I ask you – isn’t that the kind of customer you want to not only keep, but also take care of? These guys seem to want to demonstrate some shady practices and then hope their customer will simply fold.

Sorry, not gonna happen.

A friend has written about this kind of thing before, see here, but now I’ll ask you: in an environment where every interaction counts, what are you doing to take care of and keep your customers? Given my recent experience, I’d love to hear some good examples…

image by yummiec00kies

Bad advertising, courtesy of Burger King

Burger King Ad

I came across this not long ago and sometimes I’m just lost for words.  Not only did a creative team come up with this idea, such as it is, they actually had the stones to take it their creative director. That CD then took it the account rep. Finally, once all was said and done, the agency gathered up their storyboards and mock-ups and pitched it to the client.

Who, for reasons passing understanding, somehow said yes.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m a former Marine and a long-time bartender, so sketchy humor is essentially part of my genetic make-up – so I’m not offended with the ad. At least not in the traditional sense. I’m simply left, pardon the pun, with a really, really bad taste in my mouth.

I’v said this before, and I’ll no doubt have countless opportunities to say it again, but there is some absolutely horrible advertising out there. Ads that don’t really do much more than lean on a dick joke to one degree or another and then exit stage left.

And maybe most people don’t expect much more. They’re just ads, right?

Except they’re not. Not when they’re good. There are some absolutely phenomenal ads that have been written and produced that not only manage to make us think, or smile, or talk to one another; they represent a business or product in such a way that we consumers choose to do business with them. Gladly.

But doing both is hard, and because of that you get crap like the Burger King ad pictured here. On the other hand, you can find an example of a banner ad that rocks here. What are some great/horrible ads you’ve seen?

The land of the free, unless you’re gay

Lt. Dan Choi

The last week or so I’ve seen quite a bit of activity on Twitter about him; most being requests to electronically sign either a petition to the Army or a letter addressed to Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, on Choi’s behalf.

If you’re unfamiliar with the name, check out this link for Courage Campaign. In essence, the story is this: Lt. Choi, a West Point graduate and decorated Army veteran, is being discharged for violating the “Don’t ask, Don’t Tell” Policy.

You see, Choi, during an interview on the Rachel Maddow show March 19th, admitted to being gay and a few weeks later received a letter informing him he would be dismissed from the Army in accordance with DADT. Both the letter and petition circulating on Twitter and the Web urge the repeal of that policy as well as a request to allow Lt. Choi to continue his service.

I agree with half of it.

tribal2

Repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

For those of you that don’t know, once upon a time I served in the Marine Corps. Four years of active duty, stationed from California to Japan, and during my tour I received quite a few commendations, medals, and other nice bits of this and that that let me know I didn’t suck when it came to being a Marine.

So there’s that.

And during that time, I can tell you with absolute certainty I served with quite a few gay men and women. They were, all of them, good people who served their country proudly and passionately and in my experience their sexuality hindered their ability to serve, perform, or lead not in the slightest.

That the guy to my left had a boyfriend mattered absolutely zip in his ability to set a perimeter, navigate through unfamiliar territory, or apply the three or so pounds of pressure it takes to fire an M-16, is what I’m saying.   

So there’s also that.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” was crap from inception – an olive branch to Gay America that the Right could live with – but it really didn’t change much in regard to how the military operated from day to day. Before the policy, gay men and women would simply lie if they were asked. Now they just weren’t asked.

But either period would see a discharge if the truth came to light, and in addition to the immediate aftermath of frustration, humiliation, or depression, your discharge status is something that follows you the rest of your life.

In short, DADT isn’t just, doesn’t work, and ignores the fundamental problems with DOD policy. But it was, I think, a first step in the right direction. And in my humble opinion, it’s time to take the next. 

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The Good Lieutenant

Lt. Choi is a different matter entirely. While his discharge is a tragedy – this is a guy who’s an Iraq War Vet, a West Point graduate, and an Arabic translator (which we clearly need all we can get) – I have to say I think he must still be discharged.

You see, Lt. Choi is a man who accepted his commission, honorably served his country, and then publically came-out on television – but did each well aware of the military’s policy regarding gay men and women in uniform as well as the ramifications of breaking that policy.

In other words, he knew the rules, broke them, and is now crying foul. And while I appreciate and respect his desire to serve, a well-ordered military doesn’t operate that way. A well-ordered anything doesn’t work that way.

A far better approach, I think, is for Lt. Choi to work diligently to repeal DADT and then petition for reinstatement if and when the policy has changed. He, and the countless other Marines, soldiers, Airman, and Sailors who have been discharged under the policy, could then have the opportunity to serve again when they’re most needed.

And needed they are. As of this week, 4,308 United States military personnel have died in Iraq and 710 have died in Afghanistan. And I’d bet all the money in my pockets against all the money in yours that there’s more than a few gay men and women in those two lists.

Thoughts?

Great advice, no matter what the decade

A wonderful, sassy designer I work with here at Hoover’s named Sarah (you can find her site by clicking on the “What’s on my mind” link in the Blogroll to the right) sent me a link to an ad she thought I might like a while back. I certainly did, and thought about it over the weekend. Given the constant, mind-numbing bad news we hear every time we turn the dial or watch the news, I thought you might enjoy the following:

superman 

You can find the actual ad here or the overall site, Ads of the World, here. There’s some really funny stuff if you have the time.