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An Audacious List of New Year's Resolutions

I’m not making any New Year’s resolutions. I’m old enough to know better.

I am, however, going to share a list of resolutions put forward by Seth Godin in his post today. While there are few of these resolutions upon which I can take direct action, I can use them to guide the way I want to face my own future. They can help me to better align what I believe with what I do. Less hypocrite, more mensch, in other words. “But a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” Thank you, Robert Browning, and thank you, John Hildreth, my seventh grade English teacher, who had this quote plastered in giant letters around the ceiling of his classroom at Benjamin Franklin Junior High School.

As Seth notes, “This list seems ridiculous until you realize that in the last few generations, we created vaccines, antibiotics, smartphones, GPS and the Furby.”

So here:

1. High efficiency, sustainable method for growing sufficient food, including market-shifting replacements for animals as food
2. High efficiency, renewable energy sources and useful batteries (cost, weight, efficiency)
3. Effective approaches to human trafficking
4. Carbon sequestration at scale
5. Breakthrough form for democracy in a digital age
6. Scalable, profitable, sustainable methods for small-scale creators of intellectual property
7. Replacement for the University
8. Useful methods for enhancing, scaling or replacing primary education, particularly literacy
9. Beneficial man/machine interface (post Xerox Parc)
10. Cost efficient housing at scale
11. Useful response to urban congestion
12. Gene therapies for obesity, cancer and chronic degenerative diseases
13. Dramatic leaps of AI interactions with humans
14. Alternatives to paid labor for most humans
15. Successful interactions with intelligent species off Earth
16. Self-cloning of organs for replacement
17. Cultural and nation-state conflict resolution and de-escalation
18. Dramatically new artistic methods for expression
19. Useful enhancements to intellect and mind for individuals
20. Shift in approach to end-of-life suffering and solutions for pain
21. Enhanced peer-to-peer communication technologies approaching the feeling of telepathy
22. Transmutation of matter to different elements and structures
23. Off-planet outposts

Radish

Washing and trimming a perfect bouquet of radishes to throw into my salad the other day, I was overwhelmed by a sense memory. Maybe I was five or six, watching my Dad at the kitchen table, slicing fat radishes in half, dipping them into a plate of salt, and popping them into his mouth.

The bright red and pure white of the radishes, the sound of the crunch, the tactile pleasure of dipping into the salt - I had to try it. 

“Can I have one?”

“Sure.”

The blast of pungent radish and sharp saltiness almost knocked me over. I didn’t eat radishes for a long time after that.

Now, I’m ready for it. I got out a plate, threw some salt on it, dipped, and crunched.

Pure delight.

Thank you, Dad.

Gratitude

...seems to be in short supply most of the time. Robert and I saw the Peter Tunney billboard on the Major Deagan the other day and it got me to thinking.

It isn't a sentiment that's often out in front. There's so much that can get in the way of a simple expression of thanks. Responsibility. Pride. Inattention. Worry. Regret.

We've seen more than the usual share of destruction and deprivation in our world lately. Disaster, hostility, and suffering are everywhere. And yet, a second look reveals neighbor reaching out to help neighbor, kind souls sheltering strangers, young and old lending their hands and backs to rescue and cleanup operations.

This time of year is special, no matter what else is going on in the world, because we're reminded to take that extra moment to say, "Thank you." To our families and friends who stand by us. To our partners and clients who help us keep a roof over our heads. To the men and women who protect us and defend us. To those who go out at any hour in all weather to save lives, fix what's broken, and keep watch when things get rough.

So again: Thank you.

Just say no

Open letter to [insert service provider here]

Hello. I thought you could use some feedback on my recent experience with your company.

Ultimately, when it came down to the installers actually doing the work, your technicians were knowledgeable, affable, and expert. If only the same could be said for the rest of your operations. 

 

I spoke to 8 different people in various levels of Customer Care yesterday, and it seemed that each had different information. From the first contact at 8 AM, when I confirmed that all was on track and that I should expect my technician to show up between 9 and 12, to the 2nd, at 1 PM, who told me that my order was cancelled and proceeded to create a new order for me, to the last - who was the most competent and tenacious, and stayed with me on my mobile phone until the technicians actually arrived, not one could see the record of my most recent contacts in sequence, or could explain to me exactly why my order was in limbo.

Overall, there is an overriding sense that, particularly at the lower levels of customer care management, representatives are trained to limit customers' expectations, and to explain and apologize for what they cannot do rather than act on what they can do.

Clearly, [insert service provider]'s CMS must be incredibly complicated and managing customer care for an organization as large as yours is a daunting proposition. Nevertheless, when a company is in a position where so much power and control resides in one set of systems, the responsibility to attend to customer needs is magnified, rather than diminished. Look at Google. Look at Amazon. Other large 'monopolistic' corporations are succeeding by starting with the customer experience and building backward from there. If you don't know about it, go read up on how Zappo's dealt with their recent systems breach and ended up making better customers rather than losing any.

 

Further impressions:

  • Low level representatives generally want to help, but cannot because they are not properly supported by training and systems - this must lead to feelings of uselessness and powerlessness, which cannot be good for morale or employee retention

  • The experience of being on hold with your company is excruciating because of the extremely poor sound quality of the hold music employed - I was much happier when agents put my call on mute, rather than sending me to 'hold hell'

  • transfers from one group to another are very poorly supported - there is degradation of the signal from one transfer to the next, and CSRs inevitably failed to provide a direct number in case the call was disconnected

  • there is no way to call back and pick up a conversation with the same agent one has dealt with earlier or to bypass the annoying IVR when one is calling for the seventh or eighth time

  • Speaking of IVR, I have no philosophical objection if it improves the quality and speed of service, but to force someone through a phone tree, then collect information that does not result in connecting with an informed agent is a demeaning waste of time for both customer and agent. If your system is going to ask me for account number or incident number or trouble ticket number, then the agent I connect with had better have my account on screen when she picks up.

I have taken the time to provide detailed feedback because I know that those of you at the top of the food chain at [insert service provider] would not accept the poor quality of interaction that I experienced when you are the customer. I hope my frustration can translate into better care on the front lines. 

A minor hurricane

I'm feeling some disappointment that poor Hurricane Irene did not measure up to the magnitude of shock and awe that we all prepared for here in New York. What's that all about? I mean, instead of feeling grateful that my car, my house, my loved ones, and my person and possessions were not injured or damaged or even seriously put out, I'm somehow let down that Nature decided to reserve her full fury this time. We got off easy, and I feel cheated.

Do I really have a death wish, or a desire for disaster? I don't think so. Scrabbling through the rubble of a fallen roof to find my family would not really be preferable to sitting here in my normal comfort zone with the lights on and the power grid humming.  What did I want, then?

Here it is: I want to be reminded that humans are not in charge, that Mother Earth can turn on us in a minute, that we need to respect forces that are beyond our control, and that our hold on all that is familiar and dear to us is tenuous and impermanent. I want to die a little death so that I can appreciate life a little better.

I wanted Irene to do that for me so I don't have to do it myself. 

Thinking Out Loud

Allright, I'm going to do it. I keep fantasizing about it, so I better just kick in and do it. 

I am going to write and record a new track every day in September; 30 tracks in 30 days. I'll be sending them out daily to subscribers and will compile them into a nice little collection at the end of the month. 

Little is right. I think that short will be the key here - 30 to 60 seconds long. Don't know how this is going to work when I'm on the road, but I have a feeling SoundCloud is going to save my ass. If you haven't checked out SoundCloud yet, some smart kids in Berlin put it together a couple of years ago, and it's been growing exponentially this year.

Stay tuned.

I love Fall.

Not exactly original thinking here, but I just have to say it: A day like today with a little wind blowing around the leaves,  a few clouds blowing by to make the light keep changing, the trees and bushes all done up in gold and orange and red -- a day like this makes me feel alive and alert and ready for change. There's nothing like it.

For Emma @ 17

When I got here this morning
I realized I had forgotten my keys.

I had no key for my house.
No car.
No key to understanding.
No closet, no locker, no cabinet.
No keys on my piano.

No vault, no safe deposit box.
No doors.
No maps.
No limits.

No bars.
No chains.
No fences.

This is a book written by someone I met through the Zen Mountain Monastery. I like the Kickstarter concept, and I hope that Lee succeeds in his quest to get it published.

Chip in if you can.

Olympic Heros

I need a hero as much as the next guy. Someone to look up to as a model of discipline and achievement. Someone who takes the raw talent and brains they are born with and really makes something out of it. I love the Olympics because every four years, we get a chance to see what we all are capable of.

if we could only enjoy the Olympics without the filter of television. These incredible athletes are now groomed to be media stars as part of their training and are expected to do the TV dog and pony show to satisfy the great hunger for celebrity. Who can blame them for wanting the endorsement $ and the spotlight - they have certainly earned it - but TV reduces their stature, in my estimation. The more they talk, the less interested I become. The more often they appear in commercials and fluff pieces, the less I see their individuality and their inspiration.

I've been watching some of the practice runs and other raw material that hasn't made it into the production machine. NBC is graciously posting a lot of this stuff online. No commentary, no filter, no fluff. I am such a bore, but that's the way I like it.

Vegas

It's the best of America. It's the worst of America. All that creativity, ingenuity, greed, and waste side by side. The lurid carnality and the heartbreaking beauty all in your face all at once. Lots of yin, lots of yang. Nothing in moderation, everything to excess. Four days is about all I can take.

CES was again a monumental hodgepodge, dominated, as everyone knows, by 3D TV, Ford Sync, and eReaders galore. My favorite spots, though, are those back rows full of hopeless dreamers, deep geeks, and just plain weirdness. While there was nothing this year to top last year's Cell Mate [a cell phone accessory that converted your normal cell phone to hands free operation by velcroing it to a bent coat hanger], there was the USB cigarette - a delightful device that plugs into your free USB port and smokes away "just like the real thing." Pointless, but amusing. A balance of attributes that's prized in Vegas.

By the way, I need new glasses, and I'm thinking of going straight to 3D. Good move?

Words

I love books. I love language. I love it when the precise word comes to mind that expresses the shade of meaning that you need at that moment. I love hearing a good reader or storyteller get down to the essence of a story.

As much as I love language, it's so inexact. Maybe that's why I don't talk so much. There isn't really a word that describes the angle and the intensity of the light careening off the new snow on a December morning, except perhaps for Eskimos. Everybody knows it when they see it, though. Thankfully, there is music to fill in some of those gaps where words fail us.

Dad

Banged himself up good on Saturday; waits four days before going to the doctor. He has cracked a vertebra in his neck and needs surgery. Like now.

I admire his desire to be independent, but this is a little too risky for me.

Daido

I wish I had known him better, but it was enough to be in his presence and absorb his teaching as much as I could. His voice will always be with us.

http://www.mro.org/daido/

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