Neighborhood door-to-door Felons

Two gentlemen showed up at our door tonight. According to their realistic-sounding stories, they are both felons, both from inner-city Chicago neighborhoods, grew up with no families, surrounded by gangs, foster home to foster home, both have small children, both are trying to improve their lives for their sakes and for that of their children. Their politeness was unparelleled, their story well-rehearsed, their interest in my story authentic. They work for a company called, “Better Horizons”. I think. It’s unimportant in reality. They are going door-to-door selling magazine subscriptions.

The company provides them with points for subscriptions. 3 subscriptions = 200 points. Points add up to a promotion – and, “you know how good you felt about yourself when you got promoted”. They asked about my first job. They both started as “pharmacutical salesmen – not the legal kind”. They asked about my motivation to get where I am today, wherever that might be. They showed tremendous interest. I liked them.

Magazine subscriptions are sold for cash or check. The list of magazines is small. Their story was heart-wrenching and real, but I don’t have cash or checkbook. So I just apologized and made like I was heading in for dinner. Then they asked, “do you have any old laptops you’d like to get rid of? A laptop of any quality would be invaluable in our job training.” At that point I noticed that they were carrying bags with them containing 3 laptops. I was so engrossed in their story, I hadn’t really paid attention. I also remembered an IBM Thinkpad I have in the back of a closet circa 1999. And I say, “yeah, I’ve got a laptop. Come back in 2 hours and I’ll have it ready for you.”

Win win! They get computer equipment without having to commit any more felonies and I get rid of a worthless antique collecting dust in a closet.

I applaud the initiative. More power to ya, my neighborhood door-to-door felons!

What your car says about you and why the US auto industry is failing

The only American car I have ever owned was a hand-me-down from my mother in 1988. A brown Chrystler Laser. It was sort of fast. Handled OK. Had a plain interior. A plain exterior. Got average gas milage. To me, that sums up American cars. Plain and average.

Cars represent a lot in American history and culture. So many of our rights of passage revolve around driving; getting our license, our first car, road trips, our first boy(girl)friend with a car, other stuff people do in cars. And while dogs may look like their owners, cars are a physical manifestation of their owners’ personalities.

That’s why the US auto industry is doing so badly. Why the US auto makers are doing worse than those from other countries. Our cars have no personalities. Except for the ones that try too hard and have too much personality. The ones that look like stereotypical Americans on vacation.

Let’s test this theory and examine what different brands of cars say about their drivers.

Toyota or Honda mini-van
We’re practical. We needed more room and don’t give a shit about what we drive. We intend for there to be food stuck in the seats and carpet and expect that we will dump it as soon as the kids are a bit older. It’s a fucking mini-van for christ sake.

New BMW
I have a large disposable income, see? I can afford to own not a car, but a driving machine and I am at least slightly cooler than you as a result.

VW
I am practical and frugal, but I still want to drive a German car.

Volvo
I have some money and want a comfortable, although not very stylish or showy, safe vehicle which I plan to drive for the next 15 years.

Suburu
I have a 4WD and I’m not afraid to use it, with stuff in the back, cuz I have room back there. And maybe on the roof too.

Cadillac
I’m old.

Toyota Prius
I care about the environment. And I thought I was doing a good thing for the environment when I bought this ugly thing, but then the news about the batteries came out and now I’m just driving this ugly thing because I am still paying it off. Also, I have hit 2 people in parking lots because they didn’t hear me pull out.

Ford F150
I live on a ranch.
I want you to think I live on a ranch.
I haul shit.
I have never put anything in the back nor have I driven on so much as a gravel road, but I am a big strong man. You can tell by the size of my truck. Also, I could haul shit.

Chrysler Sebring
I rented this once and forgot to give it back.

Dodge PT Cruiser
(I don’t get this car at all. I got nothing.)

Hummer
Fuck you. Fuck the environment. Fuck other people on the road. And fuck you. Did I say fuck you?

Anything old
I love cars.

VW van
I am a serial killer.

Compare American to European cars. We suck. Japanese cars aren’t much better, but they say what little they have to say with a nicer interior.  I won’t drive an American car. It has nothing to do with the economy, it has to do with personal style. It has to do with what stepping out of Suburban says about me. I am not that person. I think we look for cars that express who we are. If American’s are the cars that are made here, and I fear that we may be, we are big, bloated, self-centered, styleless, disposable, and interchangeable. Don’t bail them out, hire them some European designers.

OK. I lied. I owned one other American car. I had an AMC Pacer. It was a custom conversion that my dad gave me. Not only did it have a custom paint job, it had a beanbag for a passenger seat (somehow that was legal, we could pile 6 people in there). AND, and I am dead serious, it was a pick-up truck. A Pacer, an automobile inspired by the ladybug, that was converted into an utterly useless pick-up truck with a beanbag seat. WTF does THAT say about me?

No, this isn't mine. Some other idiot havad one too.

No, this isn't mine. Some other idiot had one too.

PS – Some of my best friends drive American cars.

PPS – I drive a 1994 Saab 900 convertible. It speaks volumes about me.

An Employer’s Market

I’ve gotten 2 separate emails today from 2 people telling me that they have gotten laid off. Two people that I respect and that are good at their chosen professions. And this is just today. My LinkedIn account is lit up like a Christmas tree with requests. And all the while, I am working at a company that has announced pending layoffs of up to 18% of the workforce.

I’m scared of what it is like today. This is an employer’s market. There is so much talent out there right now and employers can name their salaries. 10 years ago, as potential employees, we could walk into a job interview with salary requirements, stock option benefits and sign-on bonus amount demands.

When the ax falls I wonder if I’ll be one of the people out there looking for a job and telling “the man”, no matter what I may (or may not) get offered, “Thank you. May I have another?”

The Body I Want

So I think, while gazing critically at myself in a full-length mirror…. I have the body I want. I must, because I know how to get a different one, but I don’t do it. I like food, and sleep, and TV, and candy, and yes the gym and living healthy (blah blah blah), but life is short. No, life is life and in my book you get one go round. And chocolate is good!

So there I am looking at myself in the mirror criticizing my <fill in the offending body part du jour> and I realize, I must have the body I really want. Because it would be super easy (ish) to have a different one. A better one. One without <fill in the offending body part du jour> taunting me in the mirror.

I could go to the gym more and more regularly. I could eat fewer carbs. I could skip, cough, desert. I could drink less. I could eat less. I could… But I don’t. I do what makes me feel good. I go to the gym as often as I can and as often as I feel like it. And when I get home, I eat. Whatever I feel like.

So fuck you reflection. This is the body I want.

What Drug Dealers can Teach us About Free

Free has worked as a great business strategy for drug dealers for ages. Give them the first taste for free, get them addicted, they will come back for more and be willing to pay for it. Unfortunately, I’m not selling drugs.

Free can only work, as drug dealers have taught us, when it is backed up by some other way to make money. When it is used as a marketing tactic and not as a business model. Because, it turns out, when given the option of paying for something or getting it for free, most people (and some businesses) pick free. Not Free, just free. And not just free beer, they want mixed drinks.

This free marketing tactic used for the one thing has to support the paid business model of some other thing. Otherwise there is no revenue. Revenue. It is not evil or bad or republican to want to make money. It is what allows my company to pay me (and many 1000s of others). This is not evil. It is good. Good Witch of the North good.

Free has been enormously successful for many businesses to drive adoption. But free is just the first half of the equation. It goes like this. Give something useful away for free and people will pay for this other thing in order to do more, get more, run more, be more. Problem is the second part of the equation where at some point someone pays someone for something.

The problem for businesses is that we can get what we need for free and we can support ourselves through our extended communities online and offline, and we hardly need to pay for anything anymore. Which is great for us as consumers, but not for us as companies and not for us as employees of those companies.

No, I don’t really believe that free is going to go away, but more focus is going to have to be put on the second half of that equation where someone pays for something. We are emerging flushed and fulfilled from the Consumer Age of Free. Time to batten down our wallets, I believe we are about to enter the Impulse Age of Cheap. We got our first taste for free, but now we are addicted. Pay up.

Finding Myself

Who am I?

Who am I?

This question is circling my brain while I try to figure out what I want to write about. Really it goes more like this:

Who am I?

What does that image say about me?

Ewww, what is that stuck to the counter?

Should I change the text to white?

I’m out of coffee.

These socks are too short, my ankles are cold.

Is a photo of me that is more than 6 months old deceiving?

Hey, my hair looks good in that photo. Maybe I should cut it again.

Who am I?

Who am I?

Personal Branding vs Corp Marketing

I’m wondering if there is a such a thing as fashionably late to something like blogging. I tried this once before on my work’s blog site, but that felt like the wrong place for the topics I found myself wanting to write about. I also think, and thought when I stopped writing, that a work-branded blog URL was the wrong place to build my personal brand – which is what I would have been doing with my blog. Other people, to tackle this branding problem, post their blogs to more than one URL (one corp and one personal). Others still have just stayed away from the corp branded blogging site. I never managed to do either.

I started my blog with the intention of using it to promote and support the project I was working on. Eventually I found my voice and ended up covering other things. I started to develop a personality on-line and then discovered that since I was writing on a corporate site, I felt that the topics were often inappropriate. And eventually I was saying nothing at all.

It’s been about 2 years since I stopped blogging. I am jumping back into the blogosphere again now. Hopefully with something to say.

I know a few things for sure:

  • I don’t want to blog about work, at least not in the product promotional way
  • I do want to blog about things that I am passionate about without censorship (self-imposed or otherwise)
  • This blog has an incredibly stupid name

I wonder where this will end up.