Tuesday, November 08, 2016


Dear people of the future -

Today, Donald Trump has been elected the President of the United States of America.  He has been elected fairly, by the rules governing the electoral college.

You may read about this as you study the history of the United States.  And you may wonder how so many people not only allowed this to happen, but fully supported his election.  I have no answers.  But perhaps I can offer the smallest bit of insight, as I do not sit alone, shocked, saddened and personally devastated.

Nearly every person I know does not respect Donald Trump.  To be brash, I do not know one well meaning, intelligent person who even moderately supported Donald Trump.  More to the point, they are outright disgusted by the person he is.  The man is arrogant.  He has trampled others through his business ventures, only to see many of them fail.  The man lacks empathy.  He is a compulsive liar.  He certainly isn't someone that you would want as a boss, teacher or mentor in any capacity.  Yet, he will now hold the highest office of this nation.  The Presidency of the United States is currently the most powerful position any person can hold.  Tonight is downright frightening.

People are scared.  They are worried for the future of our nation and our people.  Markets are already down 5%.  The Mexican peso has already lost more than 5% of its value.  Those are simply numbers.  But people are scared for themselves.  Non-citizens are worried about their ability to stay here.  Women have quietly been silenced.  Silenced by losing the first woman president.  And also silenced by a man who clearly disrespects women as second rate citizens.  Many are afraid of what may become of our nation's place in the world.  Our relationships with other nations.  And in turn, our economy, our rights and our peace.

And yet, Donald Trump was elected.  He received the votes and support to do so.  If you learn about this election many years from now, I hope you have a chance to look closely at the maps and the votes.  The educated did not vote for him.  And that's not to say that formal education is the end all be all of a person.  But Donald Trump somehow summoned the support of the less educated.  The less well off.  He did so by fueling fear and hatred.  Blaming their struggles on immigrants and "others".  While nothing is farther from the truth, it worked.

The empathetic side of me wants to understand the people who resonate with him.  I honestly want to understand their struggles.  The rational side of me is hurt and furious.  How can we tell our children to be good people?  How can we say that honesty and integrity will ultimately allow them to succeed?  It's simply not true.  Our vote has somehow shouted out who we are.  We are fearful and bigoted.  We support lies that align with our prejudices more than we value ethics and compassion.  We have set the example for the world, our children and each other.  And I'm personally ashamed of it all.  Many of us are.

If this election affects our future the way I fear, I apologize on behalf of us.  The voters on November 8th, 2016.  It wasn't all of us.  But it wasn't enough of us.  I don't have the answers.  But I'm sorry nonetheless.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

Hey, Lou.  It's me, Mark.  I know you've been gone more than 70 years now and we've never really met.  But I've been thinking about you.  In your famously courageous speech, you considered yourself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.  If you thought you were lucky then, you should see the progress people are making towards your disease in 2014.  Is it cured?  Well, no.  Not exactly.  Well, not at all.  But, uh, they don't name it after you anymore.  So that's a start, right?  You mean you like it being called Lou Gehrig's Disease?  Hear me out though.  There's something amazing happening.  There are a handful of brilliant and dedicated people working really hard to find a cure.  Then, just these last few weeks, there have been people who are pouring ice water over themselves in the name of ALS.  That's what they call it now.  Does the ice water help the disease?  Real good question, Lou.  Of course not.  You would have figured that out yourself.  You probably want to know why they're doing it then.  As I understand it, if you pour a bucket of ice water on yourself, you relieve yourself of the moral obligation to donate money towards a cure.  Then you challenge 3 friends to do the same thing.  Isn't that great?  Aren't you thrilled at the progress we've made in 73 years?  I certainly know I am.  You lucky bastard.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Where were you when?

Every generation has a tragedy where everyone seems to remember where they were when the heard.  The most recent one was 9/11.  My theory is that it happens once every 20 years or so.  Here are the last four:

2001:  September 11th attacks
1986:  Challenger explosion
1963:  JFK Assassination
1941:  Pearl Harbor attack

Beyond that I'd only be speculating. Perhaps Black Monday in 1929?  Or something WWI related (1914-1918)?

I can tell you the details of my day on 9/11/2001.  That's the one I'm old enough to remember.  I guess what I'm also trying to say is that we're 5-10 years away from another one.  That's it.  That's my theory.  The every 2 decade tragedy theory.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

You Will

Twenty years ago, AT&T started it's famous You Will campaign.  It predicted video calls, wireless internet and ticket sales at a kiosk.  At the time I was a kid and the commercials gave me great hope for my adult life.

Twenty years later, it was pretty spot on.  I mean, it's not exact.  You could argue that most of what we have today is even better.  You'd think we'd be a lot happier with this Jetson's world we live in though.  I mean, we have free video calling and nobody really uses it.  

What I wish they had told me was the crummy parts about being an adult.  There needs to be a new campaign.  One that lets you know what it's really going to be like in 20 years...

  • Have you ever gone out for 2 beers on a Friday that gave you a hangover until Sunday?  You will....
  • Have you ever gone for a walk on the beach and pulled a hamstring for no reason?  You will...
  • Have you ever shit so hard that part of your insides come out... For a good week and a half of bleeding, chafing anus pain where you have to limp into the doctor's office and have hemorrhoids explained to you?  You will...
  • Have you ever woken up at 3:30am because you bladder won't make it until morning?  You will...
  • Have you ever sat around and thought, "What the hell happened to my life?"  You will...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Verizon FIOS - Where don't I sign up?

I want to be a fan of Verizon.  I really do.  I've been using their mobile service for almost a decade now.  I really wanted to have any reason to convert to their FIOS for my cable and internet.  I really did.  I mean, who really likes their current cable service?  If there's a better option, I'm totally ready.

But Verizon, you're making this really hard on me.  Last year, we had this exchange.  As a follow up from that event, a senior manager of Verizon called me and asked for some constructive feedback.  We spent 45 minutes talking.  While I don't claim to know much about their business, I simply told him that I didn't blame the people in the store.  I blamed their training.  Verizon employees receive incentives to get people signed up regardless of their tactics.  There's absolutely no incentive for good, rational customer service.


Verizon FIOS is now installed in my apartment building, offering a choice from our current cable only option.  As a kick-off, Verzion FIOS sales people were in the lobby yesterday all afternoon, "answering questions."  The real reason they were there was to get people to switch from their current cable to FIOS.  Again, I don't blame the Verizon guys here in the building - that is how they get paid.  And, in these tough economic times, who could possibly argue with making a living?

Here's my story.  I walked downstairs to pick up my mail.  The Verizon guys were set up in front of the mailboxes and the following happened:

Verizon Guy:  Hello.  How are you?

Me:  Good.  How's everything?

Verizon Guy:  Great.  You must be here to check out Verizon FIOS.

Me:  Actually, I'm just here to get my mail.  Thanks.

Verizon Guy:  (Unfolds a large pamphlet with their cable tiers and put it in front of my face.)  Which tier looks closest to the one you have now?

Me:  Sorry.  I'm moving out of this building soon.  I'm not interested.  (Totally true, FWIW.)

Verizon Guy:  That's fine.  You can get FIOS month to month with no commitment.  How many TVs do you have?  Verizon offers this special (points to something on the pamphlet) for 2 or more TVs.

Me:  (I feel pressured into not walking away, so, like a chump, I play along.)  I have one TV and I'm more concerned with your internet speeds.

Verizon Guy:  We have 15/5, 25/25 and 30/30 speeds and points to 3 options.  (All 3 options are more expensive than what I currently have.)

Me:  (I know the answer already, but since we're here, I decided to ask anyways)  What do those numbers mean?

Verizon Guy:  With 25/25 and 30/30 you get the same speed both ways.  So it's worth the upgrade.

Me:  (Internally debating whether to follow the old adage, "If you have nothing nice to say don't say it at all" or asking this guy more questions he can't answer.  I immediately do what I believe is right, since it's not really his fault he doesn't understand what he's selling.)  Ok.  I have no movie channels, but have cable, with HD and DVR and good high speed internet for $105 a month.

Verizon Guy:  Perfect!  For that, we can do this plan.

Me:  The one for $127.99 per month?

Verizon Guy:  Yes.  We'll be installing next week.  Just sign up here.  (He puts a sign up form in front of me.)

Me:  (I give him the "Are you kidding me?" face).  Isn't that more expensive than what I currently have?
Verizon Guy:  As you can see, a lot of people are already signed up.  (Admittedly, there were 10 or so signatures in a 48 unit building.  That's not bad.)

Me:  Thank you for the information.  Good luck with your time here.

Verizon, there's one thing I can say for sure - you are truly consistent.  Your sales force is terrible in all aspects of your business.  They are pushy, don't listen and are woefully uninformed of your own products.  If you incentivize them with sign ups only, that's exactly what they'll push for.  You must think I'm awfully stupid to leave an already reliable source of cable and high speed internet for a new unknown AND pay $23 a month more for, at best, the same quality.

It's your business.  Do what you want.  But if you want one opinion from somebody who ultimately means nothing to your bottom line, here it is:  Treat your sales people well.  Train them well.  They are often the only human interaction between you and us.  In turn, they will treat your current and future customers well.  When you don't, you get someone like me, who doesn't trust you anymore.  I feel belittled.  I feel used.  And ultimately, I don't want my hard earned money that goes towards phone, communication and entertainment to go to you.  I have options.  And I will utilize them.

Good luck, Verizon.  I'm out.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

So I decided to try eHarmony

I was a post-holiday sucker and fell for eHarmony's free weekend trial over New Years.  Having not dated successfully in years, there was really nothing to lose.


Their survey (or as they call it, 29 dimensions of compatibility) takes quite a while to fill out.  I'm sure, like everyone else, there's a bit of self deception when it comes to some of your less desirable habits.  Like, am I really going to admit that I spend a lot of time in front of my computer?  Or that I don't really give a shit about over-priced gourmet food?  Well, actually I did admit the latter.

So I'm as honest as possible without sounding like a total loser.  It then searches for matches.  You wait a minute while it does so.  In fact, if you go to another window, the countdown pauses until you come back, so you can watch their advertising.  After the 60 second countdown... Nothing.  I wait a day, as I heard sometimes it takes a while.  Nothing.  2 days?   Still the same message....


After 2 days, I finally get a couple of matches.  The smallest matching radius is 30 miles.  In a major metropolitan area, 30 miles is far.  (Ok, so I'm lazy.)  I check out the matches, read their profiles and have no idea what they look like.  You have to pay to see pictures.  Let's face it... aren't we all interested in what they look like?  If we were to be honest, that's a big part of it.

The cheapest plan is for 3 months at $45 a month.  If my math is correct, that's $135 to give this a shot.

I'm not sold yet.   So I read a little bit more, with some wishful thinking that there might be someone remotely interesting that would convince me to spend $135.

There's a profile "question" that has you list "5 things you can't live without".  I put a lot of thought into this.  I can live without most of what I have.  I narrow my choices down to water, shelter, food, electricity and  I reluctantly add clothes.  I'm not being a literal minded dick here.  I honestly could do just fine without my TV, computer and whatever else people say.  In fact, it would be a breath of fresh air to find someone else that isn't so caught up in that nonsense.

I begin to read the profiles of the girls I'm matched up with.  What are their answers?  "Fluffy pillows", "pedicures", "hockey", "french fries" (she better have relatives that died in the potato famine, or this is unacceptable), "pinkberry" (That's frozen yogurt.  Which I decided was ok, since 100% of all people that never ate frozen yogurt have eventually died.  True statistic.)  And almost every one put "My iPhone".  So it's not just my imagination that most people I meet are materialistic.


I get an email this morning that one of the girls wants to initiate conversation.  I read the first thing on her profile.  It reads, "I am a Republican so Democrats need not apply.  Sorry but I am looking for someone with the same values and ethics as myself."  This alone I have no problem with.  Good luck with that.  I'm glad you're open and honest up front.  You've just got the wrong guy.

When asked about politics, I pretty filled out the "Don't give a shit" form.  Long story short, I don't think talking politics really ever accomplishes anything.  You scream until you're blue in the face and nothing ever gets done.  Life is way too short to get upset about things you can't control.  You best enjoy whatever years you have on this earth, regardless of what's going on in Washington DC.

If you insist... At gunpoint, my beliefs are closest to libertarian, as I'd like to see the government stay out of most things (social and financial alike).  At double gunpoint, I'd choose democrat over republican, for the simple reason that people shouldn't be told what to to with their lives.  (Basically I'm choosing social freedoms over financial freedoms).  How did I get matched up with this chick?  Nice job, eHarmony.

Thanks, but no thanks

Thanks for the free trial, eHarmony.  But I'm not interested.  It's easy to get discouraged in life.  Trust me, I know.  There are plenty of people that'll remind you that you're not _________ enough.  Instead, I'd rather surround myself with people that are genuinely happy with who they are and who I am.  And for that, I suspend my search indefinitely, hoping that, one day, she'll be just right.  And so will I.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Keurig Elite K-Cup Machine Broken? No Problem.

It appears I'm not the only one who has had a Keurig K-Cup Machine break.  And just as advertised, Keurig replaced it, free of charge, no questions asked.

I received the Keurig Elite coffee maker as a gift 11 months ago.  Just this weekend, it wouldn't power on.  I called them, quickly explained the issue and they went on to send a replacement.  The lady was nothing but polite.

Note to every other company... This is how you do customer service.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Daylight Saving Time

Daylight Saving Time never really made a whole lot of sense to me.   Even as a kid, I had questions.  It was explained to me that we moved the clocks in the spring so that we'd have more sunlight in the evenings to play.  "Well," thought 7 year old me, "if that's the case, then why don't we leave it like that all year long so we can play all year round?"

As a teenager, I began to feel the effects of changing the clock twice a year.  In the spring, my already sketchy sleep schedule became worse for the entire week after.  Teenagers aren't meant to wake up at 5:45am.  Waking up an hour earlier was something short of a disaster in the high school classroom.  I cherished the extra hour of sleep in the fall.  But then always felt a pit of depression in my stomach when the sun would set before I'd get home from school.  It never felt right.

Soon after college I was working on some big project with my company to sync up clocks among a whole bunch of companies across 5 states.  It was then that I learned how parts of Indiana didn't adhere to daylight savings.  We had to figure out, county by county which ones didn't use daylight savings and fix those individually.  The only explanation I got was that the farmers would startle the cows if they were milked an hour earlier or later.  To which, I'm sure I'm not the only person who thought, "Why don't you, the farmer, just wake up a bit earlier or later and not startle your cow?"

At this point I realized that I've both been in favor or daylight savings and somewhat against it.  More to the point, I'm more interested in a standard.

My solution is this:  One time, worldwide.  Let's say we all adopted Greenwich Mean Time.  If you live on the east coast of the United States, instead of waking up at 6:00am, you'd wake up at 11:00am. After some time, you'd simply think of 11:00am as the time to wake up.  You'd get to work with 1:00pm and finish around 9:30pm.  You'd then eat, spend time with the family and go to sleep at 3:30am.  Why not?  Except for the "It's just the way we've always done it", I don't see an issue.  There'd be no more lost or gained hours when traveling.  Every computer, phone, call center would be on the same time.  One time, worldwide.  That's my solution to all of this.  We can then adjust our days and nights accordingly.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Verizon Wireless Customer "Service" - Can You Hear Me Now?

Before sounding like a bitter consumer, hiding behind an outdated blog, let me say a few positive things about Verizon Wireless. First, I've been with Verizon for 7 years. I'm ok paying a bit extra for their plans since their coverage seems to be better than the competition. I have a $60 / month call plan plus some limited texting and the mandatory $30 / month data plan. I figure I've paid upwards of $10,000 since 2004 to Verizon. I probably get a new phone every two years and continue to autopay around $100 a month. Again, I'm alright paying a bit more per month when the service is worth paying for. Verizon is expensive. And that's been alright with me. Until now.

I bought my first smart phone about 18 months ago. The original Droid. In recent days the battery meter had a question mark in it. As a result, the battery won't hold a charge, but is alright if it stays plugged in. I was as resourceful as I knew how and looked up the problem online. As usual, I'm not the only one.

I went to the closest Verizon Wireless store on Thursday. The girl behind the counter doesn't really know what to do and suggests upgrading my phone and committing to a 2-year contract. This is my biggest problem with Verizon. They don't want to fix problems. They want you to commit to a 2-year contract. At $100 a month, that's $2400 plus the cost of the new phone. Yes, that's business. I understand. Just realize, Verizon, that I've shown over 7 years, that I'll upgrade my phone and re-up my contract in another 6 months or so anyways. Why won't you spend a few minutes getting to the root of the problem?

Her other suggestion is to try a new battery. I say, "Great. I'll buy a battery." They don't have batteries. I ask where the closest Verizon store is so that I can buy a battery for the phone. She tells me to order one online. Thanks, Verizon. I don't blame the girl. She's new. I blame Verizon. Why don't you hire people who can do anything more than repeat the company line?

I go home and order a battery online. They have free 2-day shipping. The battery comes a day early. The Fedex guy acted surprised at the fact when he delivered it. I do everything suggested online. I clean the battery contacts, I replace the battery. And, still, the question mark in the battery meter and the phone won't work when not charging.

Now it's Saturday. I decide to go to another Verizon Wireless store. It's bigger and I figure there's a better shot and getting something figured out.

I walk in and an older gentlemen mumbles something. I politely let him know I couldn't understand. He repeats to me, in an insulting manner, "How. Can. I. Help. You. Today?" Well, great. I see where this is going. I explain the battery situation, how it doesn't hold a change. He asks me two idiotic questions. First, he asks me what phone I have. Listen, if you work at Verizon and don't know that you're holding a Droid, something is severely wrong. He then asks if he's pressing the correct power button, wondering why it won't turn on. I calmly explain again that the phone will not hold a charge. You know, the whole reason I came to the store in the first place.

He plugs it in and upgrades roaming capabilities by dialing *228. Awesome. Roaming. Without trying to sound insulting, I ask if there's a technical expert in the store. There were at least 10 people working and only 5 customers. He gets offended and tells me he's the technical expert. When his brilliant *228 doesn't miraculously cure my battery issue, he sends me to a young guy behind the counter.

Young guy behind the counter immediately tells me to upgrade my phone by doing the 2-year contract. I want to know if he'll look into the current problem on my current phone. "Sorry sir, your phone is out of warranty." I know. I understand. There's a one year warranty. I'm fine with that. But can't we spend a few minutes looking into the battery issue? Perhaps it's an easy fix? Or is your only goal to get another $2400 contract + $200 phone purchase from me? Clearly, it's about the money.

He refuses to even look into the problem. My option is to buy a new phone with a 2 year contract or leave. I left. But before I did, I insisted on getting a refund on the battery. I got my $43.99 back.

Again, I'm not upset with the people at the store. They all seem woefully inexperienced and underpaid. It's the long term business model of Verizon. I've been happy to pay you $1200 a year for your better than average coverage. Just help me a bit during a time like this. If it's going to cost me a couple hundred dollars to break my contract with you, it may be worth it. Five years ago, I was always given the benefit of the doubt when I had cell phone issues. Now we've been reduced to the company line - Upgrade your phone. You've failed, Verizon. And when thousands of people read this and begin making decisions to go elsewhere, perhaps you'll hear me then.

Side note: If I could get a mobile device with data only (no call plan), I'd do it in a second. With Google Voice and Skype, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't miss voice or text. I think that's where we'll be in a few years anyways.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Chicago Bulls Drafts since 1999

I'm very excited about the Chicago Bulls in 2010-11. They're a fun team. They're easy to like and hard to hate. They're a group of good guys who work hard.

I was recently thinking about why it took so long to rebuild since the departure of Michael Jordan. Since 1999, the Chicago Bulls have had their share of lottery picks. They've had two #1s, two #2s, a 3, two #4s, two 7s and a 9. Of those picks, only Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah remain on the team. You'd think with 10 picks that high, they'd have been able to rebuild quicker.

Drafting is tough. But some teams do a much better job than others. And there's some luck involved in the quality of the draft. Let's quickly take a look at guys passed on by the Bulls. Instead they took Marcus Fizer (#4), Eddie Curry (#4), LaMarcus Aldridge (#2) and traded for Tyrus Thomas on draft day.

In 2000, they have a 4 and a 7 and take Marcus Fizer and Chris Mihm (trading him for Jamal Crawford). Ugh. Just passing on Joel Pryzbilla, Hedo Turkoglu and Mike Miller.

In 2001, they missed out on Shane Battier, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Tony Parker. Instead they do their Eddy Curry and Tyson Chandler rebuilding strategy.

In 2002, they had the Jay Williams tragedy, so there's a pass. Amare was taken #9 though.

In 2003, they just got hosed with the 7th pick. Ahead of Kirk Hinrich, you had Lebron, Carmelo, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Then 3 of those fuckers decided to play together.

In 2005 they have no pick (which is ok, since it turned into Luol Deng in 2004) and miss out on the Chris Paul and Deron Williams lottery.

In 2006, they have the #2 pick and inexplicably flip LaMarcus Aldridge for Tyrus Thomas and miss out on Rudy Gay, Brandon Roy and J.J. Redick.

I'm too lazy to research this, but something happened between the 2006 and 2007 draft. The Bulls went from completely screwing up each and every pick to doing something right. What was it?

In 2007, they start to figure things out, stealing Joakim Noah at #9. There was talk the previous year, had Noah come out, he might have been a top 3 pick.

In 2008, the luck out on the #1 and obviously take Derrick Rose. There was talk about Beasley, but even the Bulls couldn't screw that one up.

In 2009, they do a great job of getting Taj Gibson at 26.