Saturday, December 31, 2011

What Happened to Customer Service?

Today, as a start of a school science experiment for my son, I went to three fast-food restaurants to purchase a small order of French fries. What I found was despicable customer service and an obvious need for these restaurants to remove the "fast" from their branding.

First, it was Burger King. I entered the restaurant because the drive-thru line was rather long. I was third in line. It took almost five minutes to get to me. The cashier almost did not look up from the register to address me; there was no greeting or smile. The best I got was "What can I get you?" I placed my order and then waited over five minutes for a small set of fries; the staff had none out. At almost dinner time, it seems like a bad idea not to have French fries ready. I was given my order and did not receive a "thank you" or a "Happy New Year" or even a "go away and leave me the hell alone." Blank face, complete silence. WOW! It is a very different feeling being a customer of this store. Needless to say, I am not coming back.

Next it was Wendy's. There was a short line at the drive-thru, so I opted for that. The cashier asked me to hold and then disappeared for two minutes; again, no greeting. When he came back, he gave me the customary "Can I take your order?" I drove to the second window and the guy took my money. Five minutes later I still did not have the fries. They must not have fries ready at this restaurant either. I finally see a guy approaching the window with my food; he shoves it out the window without saying a word. I say "thank you" and he closes the window without a word. I was now fuming. I yelled at him and told him he was rude. He cracked open the window and asked me to repeat myself; I told him he was rude, that I deserve at least a "you are welcome" since I had addressed him politely. He said "well, you are welcome." Two for two; that Wendy's will never see me again.

Lastly, a McDonald's. The drive-thru was packed, so I went in. This was perhaps the worst. Two cash registers. I stand on the first one. Of course, that was a bad move. After taking the order ahead of me, the cashier disappears into the back to do something. And now the other line has gone from one customer to six customers. The supervisor starts yelling instructions and tells the cashier to get back to the front. She comes back and starts to argue with the supervisor; back and forth they went. By now, it has been at least five minutes and they have not even taken my order. I finally speak up and ask if they can possibly take my order. A different cashier, younger and very unhappy, comes over and takes my order. I see a bunch of French fry envelopes under the heating lamps, yet it still takes another three minutes for the lady to come back with a bag. She extends her arm at me and, without a word, gives me my food.

I know it is New Year's Eve. I know food service is a tough job. But it never hurts to have some basic customer service skills. Does it hurt to smile and say "Hello!"? Does it take such a great effort to say "Thank you for your order? Come back and see us!"

I think these food service employees need to remember that they are fortunate to have a job. I remember working through Christmas, New Year's, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, etc. It was not fun; but I was grateful for the job and the money. And I was always polite to my customers.

I will voice my comments to all three chains. None of those restaurants should call themselves "fast food" and all of them need some serious refresher on how to be polite to their customers. And all of them have lost my business.

Friday, November 25, 2011

No Black Friday for us

Our family will not partake in Black Friday. The weather here is cool, so we will find something to do indoors for the morning, and then head out to a trail in the afternoon. What a great gift that will be!

The end of capitalism?

The Occupy movement has caused fear amongst many in society. They fear that capitalism will come to an end. It reminds me of the concept of impermanence. Nothings lasts forever, everything changes constantly. During the last few decades, capitalism has changed to mostly benefit an elite few. It appears it now will be transformed into a system that will benefit the majority.

Will it be the same as it was before? Probably not.

Will the change be pain-free? Probably not.

Will the change require sacrifice? Probably so.

Will this generation see the benefits of this shift? Probably not completely. Our children and grandchildren will be the greatest benefactors.

Call me a Twitter

I am more involved in Twitter thanks to the Occupy movement. I am still learning. The 140 characters forces clarity and brevity. Love it!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The power of No

» The Four Things I Wish I Could Say No To :zenhabits
In that statement is the fundamental choice at the heart of Great Work: focus on the No to become clear on the Yes; define the Yes by clarifying the No.
Personally, not being disciplined in saying "No" has caused me greatly over the years. Not saying Yes to the more important aspects of life has been very significant. So I enjoyed reading this blog and its lessons on Good Work v.s. Great Work. Which one are we focusing on most of our time?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Powerful principles for a mindful workday

The 5 Principles of a Profound Workday | zen habits
‘Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.’ ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Being Quiet and Successful

I recently read this excellent blog (partial quote follows):

The Quiet Theory of Influence | zen habits
When everyone yells “Look at me!”, become quiet.

When others seek attention, turn your attention inward.

When everyone wants pageviews and sales, be valuable.

When others try to pull visitors to their sites, let people find you themselves.

When most blogs have popups and drop-downs urging readers to subscribe to their newsletters, get out of your readers’ way.

When others brag of their success, let others laud you instead.

When others cling greedily to copyrights, give your work away.

When others use goals to drive themselves to change the world, learn to be content, and people will ask to learn your secrets.

My friend John Fay found this excellent demonstration:

xkcd: Marketing Interview

Peace, everyone!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Some fruits and vegetable are more susceptible to pesticides. Learn which are and are note.

Executive Summary | EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides | Environmental Working Group |
Eat your fruits and vegetables! The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure. Use EWG's Shopper's Guide to Pesticides to reduce your exposures as much as possible, but eating conventionally-grown produce is far better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all. The Shopper's Guide to Pesticide in Produce will help you determine which fruits and vegetables have the most pesticide residues and are the most important to buy organic. You can lower your pesticide intake substantially by avoiding the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated produce.

Emails and attachments (my gripes)

Often, I receive emails asking me to open an attachment so that I can learn details about an event/fundraiser/etc. It seems to me that it would be just as easy for the sender to paste the details in the email body and save everyone the bother of having to open a document. It would also save our email servers from having to store documents that are not needed.

While I am at it, please consider not using PowerPoint to create a fancy-looking one-slide document. We need less "artistic" and more information, more simplification and less decoration.

And let me not forget this one: I will not support a fundraiser for a "health" cause that sells unhealthy products. Selling cookies, pies, and fried chicken to raise funds for the American Heart Association makes as much sense as selling guns to promote gun control, or selling joints in an anti-drug campaign.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Education is critical to progress

Here is an opportunity to take college courses for free:

Free Online College Courses

There are two parts to this article. A link to the second part is at the bottom of part one (which this link points to).

Enjoy exploring the work of free college courses!

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Blood Work by Michael Connelly

I recently finished reading Blood Work by Michael Connelly. It is a great murder mystery book. It has a great cast of well defined set of characters that remain true to themselves from start to end. Connelly grabs your attention from page 1 and does not let go until the very end. The conclusion was unexpected and a little disappointing to me, yet it did not diminish the overall value of the book as a whole. I recommend this author and book.

Mister Monday by Garth Nix

The kids and I just finished listening to Mister Monday. This is a great book to read or listen to. It is the first in a seven book series by the author. We recommended it for it's great use of imagination and vivid descriptions. It was very entertaining and has a few good moral lessons along the way.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Effortless Decision-Making

Effortless Decision-Making | zen habits
How do you make a choice when you’re stuck at a fork in the road?

How can you decide when two or more possibilities seem equally good?

This is an easy-to-read, easy-to-follow advise that can be helpful at many times in our lives.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Marcin Jakubowski: Open-sourced blueprints for civilization

Here is a revolution in an unexpected way:

Marcin Jakubowski: Open-sourced blueprints for civilization | Video on

Six Money Lessons

Great advise we can all use:

6 Money Lessons for My College-Aged Daughter | zen habits
I always dreaded budgeting and paying bills and thinking about savings and retirement, and figured I could always deal with it later.

Problem with that is you end up screwing yourself if you put things off until later. Living for the moment is great, until the finances catch up with you and the moment starts to suck because you owe a ton of debt.

I’ve found that living mindfully means not just partying in the moment, but taking care of things now, when they’re small, rather than when they’re huge.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Cancer: the ugly truths, the better treatments

If the "c" word (that is, cancer) has touched your life (directly or indirectly) then you need to read this book.

Cancer-Step Outside the Box

The author seems a bit repetitive at times, but perhaps that is a needed technique as people tend to jump in to read parts they want/need to learn about.

The truths about the cancer industry are very real based on my own experience with Tracey. It is obvious that the cancer machine does not want to allow more effective treatments to come to surface. How could then they make billions of dollars per year? It is this reality that has caused me to stop contributing to charities associated with cancer treatments and cures. Sadly, they are a farce. Whether the people that head and work for such organizations as the American Cancer Society or Susan G. Komen Foundation know it or not is debatable. What is not so unclear is that there are more humane treatment methods and they have been shutdown, repeatedly, by government agencies that are too vested in the status quo to be a conduit for progress.

Not only is this book an exposé of these organizations, it also provides great treatment protocols and excellent preventive methods.

If you take only one thing out of this post then take this: we owe it to ourselves not to be part of the current cancer machinery that slashes, poisons and burns patients with a pathetic 3% success rate; compare that with a 90% success rate of the protocols listed in this book which use more natural and effective methods.
Do you want to learn more? Please visit: Cancer Truth | Alternative Cancer Treatments

Monday, June 06, 2011

One tiny change -- that's all it takes

Get Started: From Overweight to Healthy | zen habits
If it were just a body-image thing, I’d say learn to love your body — and I believe that. Forget the cover models on magazines, the perfect people on TV and in movies. They’re just being used to sell us stuff, but the result is that we get bad body images for not having rock-hard abs. Forget about that. What worries me, though, about friends and family who are overweight is their health — having a big belly puts you at risk of heart disease, diabetes and other similar problems.

Scary stuff.

But how do you start getting healthier and fitter? How do you change a whole slew of habits, from eating too much to eating fried and sweet and fatty foods to drinking sodas and sweet coffee drinks to being sedentary?

You make one change. A tiny little one.

It really can be that is. One small change. My first change was to increase water drinking. Then I moved more. Then … 65 pounds later, I was in the best shape I had been in decades!

So make one small change; and please do it today!

Sunday, June 05, 2011


Breathe. | zen habits

Breathing can transform your life.

If you feel stressed out and overwhelmed, breathe. It will calm you and release the tensions.

If you are worried about something coming up, or caught up in something that already happened, breathe. It will bring you back to the present.

If you are discouraged and have forgotten your purpose in life, breathe. It will remind you about how precious life is, and that each breath in this life is a gift you need to appreciate. Make the most of this gift.

If you have too many tasks to do, or are scattered during your workday, breathe. It will help bring you into focus, to concentrate on the most important task you need to be focusing on right now.

If you are spending time with someone you love, breathe. It will allow you to be present with that person, rather than thinking about work or other things you need to do.

If you are exercising, breathe. It will help you enjoy the exercise, and therefore stick with it for longer.

If you are moving too fast, breathe. It will remind you to slow down, and enjoy life more.

So breathe. And enjoy each moment of this life. They’re too fleeting and few to waste.

Be still

Be Still. | zen habits
From the Tao Te Ching:

It is not wise to dash about.
Shortening the breath causes much stress.
Use too much energy, and
You will soon be exhausted.
That is not the Natural Way.
Whatever works against this Way
Will not last long.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

The Illusion of Control

A good friend of mine sent me this, and I wanted to share it with all of you.

breathe. | zen habits

May you live like the fish … at least some of the time.
The Illusion of Control

‘The Master allows things to happen.
She shapes events as they come.
She steps out of the way
and lets the Tao speak for itself.’
Post written by Leo Babauta.

When you think you control something, you’re wrong.

It’s amazing how often we think we’re in control of something when really we aren’t.

Control is an illusion, as I’ve said many times before.

We constantly make plans that never actually turn out the way we envisioned. ‘If you want to make God laugh, make a plan,’ an old saying goes.

We have been trained to set goals, and then work on the actions that lead to those goals … and yet how often do those goals fail? How often are we trying to control a future that we cannot predict?

Did you know five years ago that the world would turn out as it has — that Obama would be president, that the stock markets would have crashed, that we’d be deep into a recession, that earthquakes and tsunamis would hit, that you’d be doing exactly what you’re doing today?

Of course not. We don’t know the future, much less control it. We like to think we do, but that never turns out to be true.

And yet we continue to believe in the illusion of control. We face a chaotic and complex world, and seek to control it however we can.

Our attempts to control the world can be seen through:

  • Trying to control how our children turn out, as if we can shape them like blocks of clay, as if humans aren’t more complex than we can possibly understand.
  • Tracking every little thing, from spending to exercise to what we eat to what tasks we do to how many visitors are on our site to how many steps we’ve taken today and how many miles we’ve run. As if our selective tracking can possibly include the many, complex factors that influence outcomes.
  • Trying to control employees — again, complex human beings with many motivations and whims and habits that we don’t understand.
  • Obsessively planning projects, trips, days, parties, as if the outcomes of events are things we can control with our powers of manipulation of the world.
If we can let go of this illusion, what are we left with? How can we live among this chaos?

Consider the fish. A fish swims in a chaotic sea that it cannot possibly control — much as we all do. The fish, unlike us, is under no illusion that it controls the sea, or other fish in the sea. The fish doesn’t even try to control where it ends up — it just swims, either going with the flow or dealing with the flow as it comes. It eats, and hides, and mates, but does not try to control a thing.

We are no better than that fish, yet our thinking creates the need for an illusion.

Let go of that thinking. Learn to be the fish.

When we are in the midst of chaos, let go of the need to control it. Be awash in it, experience it in that moment, try not to control the outcome but deal with the flow as it comes.

How do we live our lives like this? It’s a completely different way of living, once we let go of the illusion:
  • We stop setting goals, and instead do what excites us.
  • We stop planning, and just do.
  • We stop looking at the future, and live in the moment.
  • We stop trying to control others, and focus instead on being kind to them.
  • We learn that trusting our values is more important to taking action than desiring and striving for certain outcomes.
  • We take each step lightly, with balance, in the moment, guided by those values and what we’re passionate about … rather than trying to plan the next 1,000 steps and where we’ll end up.
  • We learn to accept the world as it is, rather than being annoyed with it, stressed by it, mad at it, despaired by it, or trying to change it into what we want it to be.
  • We are never disappointed with how things turn out, because we never expected anything — we just accept what comes.
This might seem like a passive way of living to some, and it’s against our aggressive, productive, goal-oriented cultural nature. If you can’t accept this way of living, that’s OK — many people live their lives with the illusion of control, and not realizing what it is that makes them unhappy or frustrated isn’t the worst thing ever.

But if you can learn to live this way … it’s the most freeing thing in the world.

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Becoming a Lay Buddhist

Today, I officially became a Buddhist. It is not that today I became a much better person. I feel I have lived my life with good intentions and through good deeds. I do the best I can and try to help others when possible. But today I made it "official."

Being a Buddhist may not be very different from being a person of other faiths and beliefs. We all share certain "sacred" values that bind us. In Buddhism we call these values The Precepts. We believe in the Three Pure Precepts:
  • Cease from evil
  • Do only good
  • Do good for others

We also follow the Ten Great Precepts:
  • Do not kill
  • Do not steal
  • Do not covet
  • Do not say which is not true
  • Do not sell the wine of delusion
  • Do not speak against others
  • Do not be proud of yourself and devalue others
  • Do not be mean in giving either Dharma or wealth
  • Do not be angry
  • Do not defame the Three Treasures
Many of these are familiar to most people; they are the common rules most humans follow to be good members of society.

The greatest change for me today is becoming a vegetarian. This is not a requirement for becoming a Buddhist, but it is a choice I am making for many reasons, not the least being that this will (even in a small way) reduce the demand for meat and make a small impact on the cruelty suffered by farmed animals.

My biggest challenge over the last few years has been anger. I have had a lot to be angry about, and I was not dealing with these issues in a healthy manner. Through Buddhism and meditation I have gained tools to deal with this aspect of my humanity. It is not perfect but it is a lot better.

I am grateful everyday  for all I have.

The Year of Money

I received the following from a friend through an email. Take it for what is worth:

"This is the year of Money! This year has four unusual dates: 1/1/11, 1/11/11, 11/1/11, and 11/11/11. That's not all. Take the last two digits of the year in which you were born; now add the age you will be this year, and the result will be 111 for everyone! This year October will have 5 Sundays, 5 Mondays and 5 Saturdays. This happens only every 823 years."

Monday, February 07, 2011

Book Review: "Last to Leave" by Clare Curzon

I read this book a few weeks ago. It is a great mystery novel with excellent descriptions of places and people. It is a bit slow at first and the British police ranks are confusing for an American reader, but the twists and turns each character takes are worth the time reading each page. I loved the end -- very unexpected. I recommend the book.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Monday, January 03, 2011

My HIIT Plan

HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) has been proven to increase metabolism and improve fitness. Today I started a HIIT program to help with weight loss and fitness. Here is my plan:

Week 1: three times per week
* walk at 3.6 mph for 2 minutes
* run at 7 mph for 1 minute
* 10 cycles (about 40 minutes with a 3 minute warm up and 3 minute cool-down)

Week 2: three times per week
* walk at 3.6 mph for 90 seconds
* run at 7 mph for 1 minute
* 10 cycles

Week 3: three times per week
* walk at 3.4 mph for 1 minute
* run at 7.2 mph for 1 minute
* 10 cycles

Week 4: three times per week
* walk at 3.4 mph for 1 minute
* run at 7.2 mph for 1 minute
* 12 cycles

Week 5: three times per week
* walk at 3.2 mph for 1 minute
* run at 7.4 mph for 1 minute
* 12 cycles

Week 6: three times per week
* walk at 3.2 mph for 1 minute
* run at 7.4 mph for 1 minute
* 14 cycles

Week 6: three times per week
* walk at 3.2 mph for 1 minute
* run at 7.4 mph for 1 minute
* 16 cycles

Week 7: three times per week
* walk at 3.0 mph for 1 minute
* run at 7.4 mph for 1 minute
* 18 cycles

Week 8: three times per week
* walk at 3.0 mph for 1 minute
* run at 7.4 mph for 1 minute
* 20 cycles

1/3/11: Week 1, Day 1 has been done. More updates as available.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Happy New Year! Let 2011 be the best year ever!

It has been a while since I wrote on this blog. The absence was due to many factors, not less the lack of time. Or, better yet, the lack of time management. It is my intention to manage this finite resource wisely from now on.

I write about my intention and not my resolution. I believe the latter are easy to abandon because they lack an anchor into something deeper. Resolutions are similar to goals without a vision; they lack the deep foundation needed to make them happen. I came across the concept of intentions in 2009. I encourage you to visit the Intenders website; specifically, you may want to visit The Code page for a great example of some worthy intentions.

As of today, I am going to dedicate this blog to personal reflections. I am starting a new blog dealing strictly with technology. The address is Among the things I will publish there is a copy of the newsletter I publish every week for the website.

And speaking of personal reflections. the kids and I spent part of our New Year's Eve evening at Finlay Park for the City of Columbia New Year's Eve Carnival and Fireworks. We got there a little late for the carnival portion; at $10 per person, it might have been worthwhile had we arrived earlier. The kids and I definitely enjoyed the fireworks sitting on a bench on the high end of the park. We then went home and watched two episodes of "Bones" (season 1, which we got from Netflix). And just around 11 PM both kids fell asleep on the couches. At 11:55 I woke them up and we celebrated New Year's with some healthy OJ. There were plenty of fireworks in our neighborhood. You should see the mess on the streets! I am sure it will all be cleaned up later today.

May your 2011 be filled with health, happiness and prosperity!