Thursday, February 28, 2013

Groupon CEO Andrew Mason Honest Memo to Employees

Andrew Mason. Photo courtesy of
The Huffington Post. 
"After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of  Groupon, I've decided that I'd like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding - I was fired today. If you're wondering why... you haven't been paying attention."

So starts the letter Andrew Mason wrote to the employees of Groupon, upon the occasion of his dismissal as CEO of Groupon. 

The rest isn't as funny, but it is just as heart-felt. If you want, you can read it here

Over the course of my, for lack of a better word, corporate writing career, my experience has been that the higher you go up into the organization, usually the nicer and brighter the individual. 

The back-biting takes place down in the lower ranks, where people are still trying to claw their way to the top.  

Drift, a film by Tim Sesler

When I fly I prefer the window seat. I know a lot of people think it's cramped sitting there, and if you have to go to the bathroom or stretch your legs you have to climb over everyone sitting in your aisle. Sometimes people get really annoyed, and even show it, but you want to ask them, I have to go to bathroom, what would you do about it?

But I like to look out the window. I'll stare out the window sometimes for almost an entire transcontinental flight.

Filmmaker Tim Sessler made a film out of what it is that you see out the window of a plane. How beautiful it is.

The first time I was ever on a plane I was 18 years old and was leaving by myself for a open-ended trip to Europe. I ended up staying for three months. I had never been on a plane and I had to fly from Cincinnati to New York where I got on another plane that stopped in Iceland where the runway begins where the sea ends.

Since then I've been on countless flights, and never tire of looking out the window, at the beautiful, peaceful organic patterns nature carves on the surface of the earth. The natural way rivers flow, versus the way humans just blast a road through anything that stands in their way. The patterns and forms and shapes that nature makes on a mountain, valleys and crevices and alluvial fans, are the same ones it makes on a pile of sand in a vacant lot. The path a river takes through the flat open prairie is the same one a droplet of water takes down a pane of glass.

For me, it all makes sense at 35,000 feet. It's when I'm on the ground when it gets a little wonky.

Saying, I Love You

I'm not on the phone much. 

I have a cell phone and AT&T is my provider. They give rollover minutes--minutes you can keep for a couple of months if you don't use them--and I always have a big pile of them, that's how little I talk on the phone.

Mostly I talk to Sue and my two kids. So, when we hang up, we always say, Love you, and, Love you, too.  We do that when we leave messages, too. It's a wonderful thing to have in your life--the ability to say, Love you, to someone, or say it back after it's been said to you.

But when I'm on the phone with a client, or I'm leaving a message with one, I always get this hitch in me that I'm going to end the conversation or message with, Love you. That would be very weird. I haven't done it yet, but...

I also sign all of my email and Facebook messages to Sue and the girls, with, Love...I always sign the messages to the girls with Love, Dad. I know I'm lucky to be able to sign off like that, and I want to do it as often as I can. I know in life that all things come to an end. Someday I might not be able to sign off that way. So I take advantage while I can. I don't like to think about the time when I won't be able to say, Love, to them.

I have a friend, Debby, and when we talk on the phone (which isn't often enough) or when we see each other, when we're hanging up or leaving we say, Love you, to each other. We started doing that when she was going out with this guy, and she told me he wouldn't say he loved her, or didn't want to hear it from her. I thought that was the oddest thing, so I started saying it to her, so she could hear it once and a while.

I heard once a story about the author, John Irving. Since he writes so much about the loss of a child, someone thought he actually did lose a child. His answer was no, it's his greatest fear; that's why he writes about it.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Jennifer Lawrence's 2013 Oscar Press Conference A Moment of Truth

I didn't watch or even follow the Oscars last night online. I saw on Facebook that people were posting right and left, but all the status lines made my eyes glaze over. 

I heard Argos won a lot of awards last night. It was one of the few movies I actually did see, but I fell asleep during it. Since that event--what was called the Iran Crisis; I guess it's the original Iran Crisis--was such a huge moment in my life (my college roommates and I would watch Ted Koppel's Nightline, every night, and just a bit of trivia, Nightline began with the hostage situation then continued on for many years as a very intelligent late night news program.) I thought the Hollywood treatment of the events were, well, the typical Hollywood treatment.

I also tend to agree with the author of this article in Slate that says it was the worst best picture, because it does not address the real issues behind the events. Of course, neither does Davy Crockett at the Alamo, so there you go. I mean, really, what do you expect out of Hollywood? 

Anyway, just this weekend Sue and I were looking for something to do and looked at all the movies offered at the Boston Common cinema, one of the megascreen places that serve up 19 movies at a whack, and not one of them looked interesting to us.

Even Silver Linings Playbook.

Which brings me to the reason for this post. Not a fan of those feel-good happy ending kind of movies, especially ones where one of the characters with some form of mental illness is given the old emotional Hollywood treatment (see Argos above.)

But Jennifer Lawrence's answers to "journalist's" questions during her post-Oscar press conference were so true, so funny, so honest--everything a movie or a play or a book or any work of art should be--it should be watched over and over again by writers who need to know what the truth looks like. 

All I can say is, what a wonderful personality. Check it out.

Friday, February 8, 2013


Nemo, courtesy of NOAA
There's a storm whipping up out there. Sue's office is closed, as are most places--yesterday in anticipation of Nemo business, schools, governments announced closings. The T shuts down at 3:00 today.

We just came in from a walk. It's great to put on all your foul weather gear and get out in the storm. It's not that bad. So far. The wind is strengthening though, and there's a underlying whine of the wind blowing through the branches of the trees, that rises and falls. Occassionally you hear a rumble, a heavy bear's cough, where the wind is shaking something extra hard.

It's actually warm out. The computer tells me it's 33 degrees F, though how snow can come down when it's above freezing is beyond me. That means the snow will be heavy though, which means more tree branches and therefore power lines will come down. We have a gas stove and heat, but the furnace and water heater are dependent upon an electric spark to heat, and the refrigerator is electric. You make due. Put your food in a snow drift on the porch. Heat water for sponge baths. It's the loss of power that's the worst thing from a storm, because it takes the utility days to bring it back up. We are so dependent on the grid, and the established infrastructure. I would love nothing more than right now being squirreled away in a little log cabin somewhere, with plenty of wood and a good stockpile of food.

What is always remarkable to me is how animals know the weather. They haven't been bombarded with all the weather updates that humans have, yet this morning a fat squirrel that lives in a hole in a tree in our neighbor's yard was racing up and down the tree, each time with a mouthful of leaves.

And Sue and I passed bush loaded with sparrows, all loudly (and it sounded frantically) battening down the hatches for the storm. They don't have nests now. I guess they just fluff up their feathers, tuck their heads under their wings, and wait it out. I mentioned that it's after the storm that we should put out some food--bread and seeds for them--because their food sources will be covered in snow. Sue noted though, that some of them won't survive this storm. This is life or death for them.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

A Year Ago We Put Our Best Dog To Sleep

Bob, about a year before he died.
I can't let this day go by without remembering that we put Bob to sleep a year ago.

I still can't believe he's gone, though I have gotten over stepping over empty spaces where he used to lay. I still do, though, find stray patches of his fur in odd places around the apartment, like under the couch when we moved it to clean behind it, and it's a nice way to be reminded of him. He was a presence in our house for so long, and pretty much went with me wherever I went.

And I still can't believe that I had the strength to do it.

He was old, about fourteen and a half years. He was pretty much blind and deaf and arthritic in his hind quarters. He couldn't get up stairs, so I had to grab his hindquarters and walk him up stairs like he was a wheelbarrow. He always got a kick out of this, and most times at the top of the stairs would turn and laugh at me.

Yes, dogs look you in the face and laugh and smile and sometimes cry. Just like people. Just like dogs, I should say.

He was so old. In the last two months he couldn't hold his bowels, and he would mess the apartment sometimes five times a day. Yes. And we cleaned up after him and most times we were patient but sometimes I wasn't and those are the times I remember. I hate myself that I was even sharp with him once or twice for doing something he couldn't help, because he was always wanted to please his master--me.

Over the last couple of years of his life it was a slow decline. Bob taught me how to die. For most of us it will be a slow decline, and now, thanks to Bob, I know what to expect.

On this last day he couldn't get down the stairs, and I had to carry him down. I remember thinking this is one more, and his last, step of a slow decline.

I made his last day as special as I could. It was a gorgeous day, thanks to global warming. It was springlike. We got up and I made his favorite breakfast from when he was young: French toast with bacon slathered in maple syrup. For most of his life, Bob ate pretty much what I ate. If I made pork chops, I made an extra one for Bob. He loved spaghetti with red sauce sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

Then we took a ride in the truck. Bob loved the truck. Bob knew about twenty-five words, including truck, leash, and walk. We had to spell when he was around if we didn't want him too excited. If he and I were going on a camping trip and I'd start to get the gear out, he was excited for days before we went. He knew that the equipment meant.

That day we drove to all his favorite place, including the field at Ashland Reservoir where other dogs romped. He was so happy. He knew every place. But he was so old, and couldn't keep up with the other dogs. It made me sad. He had been a powerful Alpha male in his time, and now lesser dogs who nonetheless were in their prime outran him. One dog rushed him and knocked him over, and Bob looked embarrassed. I stepped in and helped him up. Bob and I always were good partners. We helped each other. When I lived alone I'd wake in the middle of the night, and him lying next to my bed on floor, breathing, was such a solace for me. I hate being alone.

Bob, looking real good.
We went to the lake where he used to swim, and hiked around the woods. Finally it was time for his appointment at the vet. Back in the truck. I helped him up into the back seat where he liked to be. Just like he knew the fields and lake and woods, he knew the vet. I doubt if he knew what was in store for him. I imagine he thought he was going to get a thermometer stuck up his butt like usual. But no. The doctor who had taken care of him for years shaved a little spot on his hind leg. I held Bob's head. When the vet injected the needle, Bob jerked. I gently turned his head around and in about ten seconds his head dropped into my hands and he was dead.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Find the Stoned Musician In This Video

I got such a kick out of watching this. I stumbled on it while just poking around on YouTube, which, along with Google, is probably one of my favorite sites on the Internet. Both sites were tailor-made for me and the way I think. I love just following one link after the other. I guess the algorithms in my head coincide nicely with Google, which is kind of a scary thought.

Anyway, the song is great, and the video is highly entertaining.

I guess I should comment though. I mean, I should add value to the content. That's what we do in the blogsphere. Right? We view, we add our little bit of "value", and pass it on?

Everything about Johnny Depp makes me laugh. He is so totally cool, down to the way he dresses, his totally hip glasses, his tats, the way his hair flops just perfectly...I mean he is so perfectly hip, isn't he? Please make sure you're picking up on my sarcasm here.

I mean, even the way he holds his guitar, slung way low, which actually, is so the totally wrong way to hold your instrument. (Check out Eddie Vedder for the correct way.)

I mean, when I look at Depp holding his guitar that way, this is what I think. This image came with the caption, Hey man, I think your diaper's full.

Anyway, it's kind of sad, isn't it? Depp is such a talent. But from this point of view, it looks like he's just another of the pretty people, hellbent on self-destruction. What's also cool about this video is the comparison between Depp and Eddie Vedder. Pearl Jam actually pulled back on promoting itself and its music so they could continue pursuing their own art.

And that is very cool.

Two-Minute Commercial vs. Two-Hour Movie

This two-minute ad ran in the Super Bowl yesterday and the Huffington Post reports that it cost Samsung $15 million.

Go ahead and watch it. It is entertaining. Oh, and I have no idea who these people are. This is the result of not owning a television and trying to stay as far out of the mainstream as I can.

So, was that worth $15 million? I think the bigger point to pursue is that Samsung thought it was worth it.

And that a  major international corporation is willing to spend that kind of money to influence people answers the question of whether or not the media--movies, talk shows, video games--affects us. Of course they do. Because companies like Samsung--and Coke and Go Daddy and Budweiser and every other corporation you saw advertisng yesterday does not spend those kinds of dollars without a lot of research. Shareholders won't allow it either.

So, that pretty much answers the question, Do violent movies and video games influence people, making them do things that they otherwise may not have thought of themselves?

You got to ask yourself, if a company is willing to spend that kind of money for two minutes of influence to sell a phone, what the heck is a two-hour Hollywood violent bombfest capable of doing?

We've all heard the "experts." Violent video games give outlets to violence, they don't cause it. The same with movies.

But you know, parents long ago knew that sugar caused hyperactivity in children, and finally all the experts came to the same conclusion.

This is what's great about being a person. You really don't need the experts to tell you what's going, although most people have long ago relinquished their right to their own opinions based in their own intelligence. They wait for some "expert" to tell them what's what. People can't cook a turkey on Thanksgiving anymore without consulting Martha Stewart and all those nimrods on the weekday morning shows.

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