Monday, December 12, 2011

Oliver: Then and Now

Over 5 years ago, I wrote this about our little toddler Oliver:
How long? Not very long. Weeks. A month or two. Then he'll be walking. Then, the gates we've erected to enclose him in the living room are going to be nothing more than punch lines. Soon, soon, he'll be walking up to us with the book that we absolutely must read to him at that very moment right there. Soon, we'll be watching him waddle down the aisles of the supermarket, through the doors of the coffee shops and toy stores. He'll walk to the elevator himself, press the buttons himself, and walk us, hand in hand, to the car.
So I remind myself to savor these moments. They disappear before I realize they're gone. I didn't realize until it was nearly too late that the days of bottle-feeding him were nearly gone, back at the end of June. And then it was the last two days that he'd get a bottle from me, and then it was the last day, and then it was the last bottle, the last time he sprawled on my lap to let me feed him. And then, there were no more left.

Bottles. Child-proof gates. Hah.

It just seems so silly to look back on those days, when he still wore diapers, when he still drank milk from bottles. Was that ever our baby?

Our baby - hah! - weighs almost fifty pounds now. He presses the elevator buttons. He not only walks into coffee shops by himself now, but he knows what he wants to order there. (No, he's not drinking coffee. Mostly, it's donuts and fruit plates and the occasional hot chocolate.) He picks out the clothes he wants to wear to school.

He's in 1st grade now. School has been a little bumpy for him - sadly, he inherited anxiety issues from both me and his mom, and we're dealing with that. It's been stressful, for all of us.

So sometimes, it's hard to remember the baby that he once was. And sometimes, that's exactly what I need to remember. This is our boy. This is the same little guy I used to rock to sleep with one arm, the same little guy who had to learn to crawl and then walk and then say words. He learned all that. So he's got other stuff to learn? We all do. We've gotten this far, together. We can get through our little challenges now, too.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Blog Ads - No, Thank You.

Why don't I run ads on my blog? Sure, I could make a little money. Maybe I could make a lot of money - who knows? but I also open myself up to having brands on my blog that I don't support.

Say, for example, Filipino dating services.

No, thanks. If I'm going to put embarrassing pictures on my blog, I'd just as soon do it myself.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


It was so gross, I'm not even going to post a picture.

I live in Seattle. You've probably been told that Seattle isn't really as rainy as the rumors are. Forget that nonsense. Seattle is moist. It's damp. It's a place where lawns either flourish (because of the epic rain) or they die (because the soil drains water so quickly). An old term for long-term Seattleites is "mossbacks." See, because they grow moss on their back! Because ... well, you get it.

I had mushrooms growing in my backyard.

I'm not talking about small cute little mushrooms. These mf'ers were HUGE. Four damn inches in diameter. They were ridiculous.

I didn't see a caterpillar anywhere,
but that wouldn't have surprised me at all.

How long do they have to grow to get to be four inches wide?! Good lord! (And what does this mean about my yardwork skills?)

Now, here's the gross part. I cleaned them up yesterday. The mushrooms were not only huge, but they were DISGUSTING. Some of them were whole and intact and could be removed by the stem. But some of them ...

had rotted. They had liquified. The mushrooms had turned into nasty black tar that stuck to the grass when I picked them up.

You know what happens when you forget about a bag of lettuce in your vegetable drawer, and when you pull it out, it's black liquid. THAT was what I found.

There are now black puddles of ex-mushrooms in my backyard. I'm praying for some of that Seattle rain to wash them away, because it is the GROSSEST THING EVER.

My theory is that these were actually the zombie mushrooms. I found the ones that had died and then reanimated to zombify their fungal brethren. Except, they're mushrooms, so they're plugged into the ground. And that's why they liquified where they stood, like an incredibly gross version of what happens to vampires in Buffy.

Come to think of it, that would have been better. Why couldn't they have just exploded and turned into powder?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Because We Care

I was talking to one of my co-workers recently. As I mentioned recently, the department has been gutted, so there's not a lot of us left and we're all dejected.

There was some material that went out and it wasn't up to our usual standards. It was terrible. A typo, poor wording, just not our typical quality. My co-worker is pretty frustrated about how far we've fallen.

But she turned to me and she said, " I don't know why I still care. I should be numb to all this. I shouldn't care anymore."

But yet, she still cares. Even though most of my department has one foot out the door, even though some of us (not me!) have been surfing job postings during our work hours, we still care. She is a dedicated worker, a gifted writer, a perfectionist. But the controls have been taken out of our hands. Other people are making the decisions for us, and the decisions are terrible.

But we still care. We're humans. We care about the work we do. We care about what goes out with our name on it. We - and I'm talking about my co-workers - are passionate about their work and it hurts to see poor quality product going out. So we fight our battles, and we argue with our superiors, and we complain behind the scenes when the decisions don't go our way. But we still care.

We could walk away, but there's something in all of us that is still hopeful that even though the iceberg has struck, even though the hull is taking on water, that the ship will be righted. We are hopeful. We have to be.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9-11-01 - The Aftermath

It seemed to take the entire day on September 11 before we understood everything that had happened. Wild rumors filled the air. There was a car bomb at the Department of State, a fire at the Pentagon (that was the third plane), attacks on the White House. There was no Twitter, no Facebook, no instant news alerts via email. CNN's website crashed multiple times on 9-11 until they stripped it down to an all-text bulletin page. I kept trying to get the correct details. I wanted to know exactly where the plane hit the Pentagon, how many people were on board the planes, where they flew from, how they had been taken. What had happened in Pennsylvania.

I flew a month afterward. I had to go to Chicago for a conference. They had ratcheted down security so tightly that the lines to board planes went all the way out of O'Hare Airport and back around through another door. I remember seeing National Guardsmen patrolling the airport in camouflage, rifles strapped to their chests, at the ready.

September 11 really threw me out of my orbit. I couldn't stop listening to the news. Something about the way I had found out about the attacks after they were in progress got to me. I wanted to know when the next attacks were happening. Especially if they were going to be happening on the west coast. (Years later, it was revealed that the plan was to attack targets on both coasts, and that one of the potential targets was the tallest building in Seattle.)

I couldn't turn off the news. I watched the national news every night - something that I never did before. I became depressed, haunted, fearful. I worked in downtown Seattle, and we have an airport ten miles away, so planes fly over the city constantly. For months, every time I saw a plane flying near one of the tall buildings, I would watch it until I saw that it passed the building and didn't fly into it.

I ended up going into therapy, and I was taking medications for a while until I was able to regain control. But I still look periodically when a plane is flying low over the Seattle skyline.

About my girlfriend? Well, in September 2001, I had started saving up for an engagement ring. In November, at our favorite Brazilian restaurant, I fell to one knee and asked her to marry me. We've been married nine years. We're happy.

I'm not going to talk about the war on terror, or about homeland security, or about politics. I wanted to take a few minutes to talk about the effect of this on me, because this was an attack on us. This affected all of us, as a people, as a society, as a generation. We have survived, but we are not the same, and we may never be. The world into which my son was born is different than the one I used to live in, in so many ways. I hope his world learns to move past fear, past anger, past hatred. I want him to grow up full of hope, not full of fear. That's the world I'm trying to create for him.

9-11-01 - That Day

My brother, who was kind enough to let me stay in his apartment, woke up shortly after the tv went on. He heard me pacing back and forth. "What's going on?" I think I gave him a brief synopsis, or maybe I just pointed at the screen, at the Towers on fire.

At some point, the towers collapsed. I didn't realize that this was going on. It seemed impossible, despite the flames and the impact of a fully loaded commercial airplane. How could one of the World Trade Centers just collapse to the ground? I thought it was part of one floor, or a facade or something. But not the whole building. My brain refused to process it until later, when I saw the collapse over and over and over again.

I went to my doctor's appointment. It was shockingly quiet. We all felt like we wanted to be elsewhere, with families, with loved ones. The radio was on in the background.

Then I went to work. The office, full of social justice activists, was a mix of shock, fear, and rage. A co-worker told me, resignedly, "This is going to be bad, man. There's gonna be a war." I knew she was right.

I worked with people who knocked on doors and called people and asked them to contribute to the fight for social justice. There was no canvassing to be done on that day. No one would answer the phone, we knew, and no one would dare answer their door, especially if it meant stepping away from the television. The office was closed for the day.

I went to find my girlfriend, who was also home from work. We watched tv for hours and hours. Peter Jennings manned the ABC front desk for an eternity, showing impressive dedication and only occasionally letting his own churning emotions show through. I grew to love Peter Jennings for what he did that day. We sat and soaked in the overwhelming news of the day, unable to move, unable to believe what had happened.

But I kept seeing the parade of Bush-appointed officials across the screen - Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft. I remember thinking that if this was going to be war, if we were truly under attack, these were not people that I trusted. I didn't trust them with our country. I didn't have faith that they would watch our best interests. I was right, I'm sad to say.

We lived in Seattle, which was now considered a possible secondary target. We were a major city on the west coast, with a critical port and major technology companies in our area. Strikes on the East Coast and the West Coast seemed a distinct possibility. This idea haunted me for weeks - months - afterward, the idea that I lived in a city that could be described as "potential target of terrorism." We had already had our brush with terrorism in 1999 when Ahmed Ressam was arrested, claiming he was part of a plot to blow up Los Angeles' airport.

We went out to dinner that night at a pizza place in the University District, one of the few restaurants that was open. The owner was from the Middle East - Lebanese? I can't remember. But I remember he said that we would now understand what the rest of the world felt. I was surprised at his blunt statement. He was right, of course. For much of the world - England, Europe, Africa, Russia, South America - terrorism had happened in their country and was expected to happen again. They understood that they were vulnerable. Americans had always believe that they were untouchable. Our sense of safety had been obliterated.

I also remember thinking - and maybe I said this out loud to him - that he should be careful saying things like this out loud. Emotions were running high, and statements like that could be interpreted as support for the attack. Of course that's not what he was saying. He was just expressing a statement of fact. But people don't always react well when their sense of reality has been shattered. People who feel under attack can lash out in the worst and most unAmerican ways. We all found that out, as a nation, as the aftermath of Sept. 11 unfolded.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

9-11-01 - How It Started

I was sleeping. I was so busy - I had three events in four weeks to help organize. I think I had an event that morning. I know I had a doctor's appointment. There was something - a hand cramp, something - I wanted to see a doctor about.

I was awakened by the phone. My girlfriend of 11 months - who would become my wife the next year - was on the other end.

"Are you listening to the news?" We were both NPR junkies. I didn't want to tell her that I was still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes.

"No," I answered.

"You'd better turn it on." There was a tone in her voice that I'd never heard before.

I turned it on. I listened, baffled and scared.

Then I turned on the television, and watched the unbelievable, undeniable images. I turned on the computer, turned on the internet connection, opened CNN's website. It was slow to load, because everyone was doing what I was doing.

That was how the day began for me. How did it start for you?

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Changes Abound

So ... I still have the job.

Yep, still working.


I've been watching the second season of Mad Men, and I'm starting to feel a lot like Harry Crane. At this point in the series (and PLEASE don't let me know what happens from here), Harry has invented a job for himself as the head of the television department, and suddenly realizes it's a lot more work than he expected. He's having a little bit of dread, actually, about how much work it's turned into, and how much harder he has to work than he expected.

I'm also feeling a little bit like ... oh, I don't know. Picture any movie you can imagine where the pilot of an airplane passes out, or dies, or turns into a three-headed dragon. And then the co-pilot/stewardess/stunned passenger in row 14 suddenly has to take over the plane. Yeah. Maybe that's it.

So as I said, I still have my job. My boss, however does not. Several of my co-workers also do not. My department has been gutted. My wing of the office is in tatters, and every day I walk in feels like entering a funeral home.

Oh, and also? We have a major product launch scheduled for the fall.

Wiser people than me might ask - why destroy the marketing department when you need them to do nationwide marketing? There are many reasons for that. Mostly, it comes down to money. We made some major mistakes, lost some money due to missteps, and we needed to bring down our labor costs to stay afloat. I didn't say I was working for a well-funded operation, people. Even though it's a bigger office than I've ever worked in, and a bigger outfit than I've ever worked for, it still just takes one mistake to throw everything off kilter. Some things never change.

So we're doing some innovative things. If you want to interpret "innovative" as "desperate," you can. We've contracted out with a marketing firm that might or might not be capable of doing what we've asked them to do. We're asking some people with very little communications experience to pinch-hit. And I'm suddenly being asked questions that I am absolutely incapable of answering. I get calls at least once a week that would have gone to the communications director before, but now he's not there, and nobody else is stepping in to take their place, and so they call me because ... well, I answer the phone. That's why they call me.

So to sum up - I'm in over my head, my boss is suddenly gone, my work is about to get really really crazy, and people are panicking. Everyone I talk to is either actively looking for a new job or they're getting their resume ready, just in case. The lifeboats are being readied.

Meanwhile, I just come in every day and do my job. I send out the messages I need to send out. I follow orders. I keep busy. I ingratiate myself with my new boss, who apparently thinks the world of me.

But I'm still working. And y'know what? I'm just going to be grateful for that.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Exercise and How It Is Killing Me

People, I'm not saying this to brag, but I just did 113 pushups.

Not all at once. I did 20, and then 25, and then 20 more, and 20 more, and then twenty-eight bicep-murdering pushups. And then I collapsed on the carpet.

I've been doing this 100 pushup program - you know the one, where you work your way up gradually over a series of punishing weeks and you end up being able to do 100 pushups in a row and impressing all the ladies? Okay, that bit about the ladies wasn't anywhere in the description. But why else would a self-respecting man inflict himself to this kind of torture?

My arms are shaking. My hands are a little jittery from the exertion. I'm sure that, to my wife, it sounds like I'm being stabbed repeatedly.

You know that Shel Silverstein song where he says all these ridiculous things that happened to him, and then at the end, he says "And guess what happened next? I died!"

It feels like that.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

All American

Last night, on July 4th, we seriously had this for dinner.


Potato salad.

Corn on the cob.

And watermelon.

I was not wearing a red-white-and-blue straw hat, but I might as well have been.

After the kid went to sleep, we made margaritas. We've been married almost nine years, but it's the first time we ever made margaritas at home. My wife and I both looked at the glass and said "there's a lot of booze in this!" (It was a combination of shock and appreciation.)

A note? Homemade margaritas are delicious. Mrs. B picked up a sack of key limes, so we had fresh squeezed lime juice. AWE-SOME.

Sunday, June 26, 2011


Looks like they've got some new shit on the menu at McDs.

Friday, May 27, 2011

I'm Still Here!!!


I know, I haven't written in two months. And you probably haven't read this blog in two months, either. (Because, y'know, math.)

So I figure I need to do something striking to get your attention back.

So here's something striking. My son, Oliver?

Y'know, this kid?

He's turning six.

Yes, really. Six years old.

He's finishing kindergarten next month.

He's reading now. He reads up a storm. Sometimes, he gets out of bed and starts reading books, and two hours later, he's still sitting on the couch, tearing through book after book after book.

He's grown so much this year. Such a personality he has. He's witty and charming and mischievous (like his dad, I suppose. The mischievous part.)

He's big. My kid is getting big.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A Genuine Hero

One of Seattle's finest citizens, Irene Hull, has died.
A week to the day before her death, she attended her Communist Party club meeting in Seattle. Someone announced the Saint Patrick's Day rally in Olympia to protest budget cuts and to demand that the legislature "tax the rich." Hull spoke up: "I'll go if someone picks me up."

She was a tiny dynamo, two inches shy of five feet tall, barely over 100 pounds. She became a national labor heroine when the Seattle chapter of Jobs With Justice (JwJ) published a poster in 1995 of several enormous police officers arresting Irene Hull.
Lonnie Nelson, a Seattle JwJ leader and a member of Irene's CP club, recalled that day. "It was during a sit-in at Republican Party headquarters to protest their attacks on Medicare," Nelson said. "When the Seattle police told Irene to move, she told them, 'I'm going to go limp.'

"So they handcuffed all of us, hauled us out and put us on a transit bus and took us to the county jail," Nelson continued. "They had us in jail for hours. We sang union songs. We talked about standing up against the vicious Republican attack on Medicare. Through it all, Irene's big concern was my wrists aching from those tight handcuffs." Nelson laughed merrily at the memory.
I was privileged to get to know Irene when I was a community organizer. I took her to a couple of rallies and protests in Olympia. I sat with her at labor meetings and saw her at just about every protest I ever attended in the state of Washington. When I marched with 50,000 labor activists during the WTO protests, Irene Hull was there.

She was one of the most dedicated and selfless people I've ever known, and a genuine hero of mine. Without her, Seattle may be a quieter place, but it will surely be a sadder place.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Nisqually Earthquake - 10 Years Later

Ten years ago, there was this little earthquake that happened in the Puget Sound. Here's how I remembered it.

I was driving to work. I had one of those jobs where I showed up in the late morning and worked until about 9 or 10 at night. I worked in Pioneer Square in a sixth floor office.

So I was in Lake Forest Park, driving south. I was driving down the street when two things happened simultaneously.

The first thing was that my tires rumbled strangely on the road. I thought for a second that I had a flat, but changed my mind quickly. I figured there were tracks on the asphalt. Have you ever driven on a part of a road where someone drove when the asphalt was still wet, and there's tire impressions baked into the road? It felt like that - like I was driving in a groove.

The second thing that happened was that Steve Sher and his guest stopped in the middle of a conversation and said things like "whoa!" and "oh, this is just like California." If you skip to the 1.00 mark in this video, you'll hear exactly what it sounded like.

So I knew two things: there was an earthquake, and nobody knew how bad it was. Sher said something like "I hope everyone is safe. We'll let you know once we know more."

So I had a forty-minute drive downtown still, and I didn't have a cell phone. All I had was KUOW, and I kept waiting and waiting to hear reports of damage, destruction, fatalities. I had no idea what I was driving into. For all I knew, everyone at my office had been pulverized.

As I got near downtown, I saw the strangest sights. Entire crowds of people were standing outside of their skyscraper offices. Huge mobs of people, standing on the sidewalk or even on the street. It was a little surreal.

I pulled off the highway, drove toward Pioneer Square. As I went down Jackson Street, I saw this scene.

That was just four blocks from my office.

I got to my office, and I saw all of my co-workers standing on the sidewalk. Nobody was hurt. The worst damage that happened was a potted plant had tipped over and spilled some dirt onto the carpet. A restaurant in the first floor of our building had a nasty crack in one of its walls, but the building was still sound. We called off work for the day. I called this girl that had been seeing for a few months - who later became my fiance, who later became my wife. She was fine. It could have been much worse. But for a few minutes, I was convinced that I was going to drive downtown to see the smoking ruins of buildings. It was a weird feeling.

Seven months later, the World Trade Center collapsed, and it really started to feel like the world was spinning out of control.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Back to Your Cage

After the holiday is over, the balloons who could not find homes go sadly back to their kennels, doomed to wait until next year.
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Monday, February 14, 2011

Six Grownup Books for Kids

Oliver has books that I love reading to him. I probably love them more than he does. Oh, he loves them anyway, but there are parts of the book that just fly over his head. The language is just a bit too mature for children's ears. Or the books touch on themes - remorse, jealousy, sadness, longing - that he doesn't comprehend yet. Not yet. Not consciously.

I think it's entirely possible that he likes these books because they speak to him, the way songs in another language speak to me. Even if he doesn't understand everything that's being said, he knows that he's being told something important.

Anyway, these are the books that I secretly love to read him. I love the language. I love the moods and the emotions. I love that they feel real, honest; the way those formulaic books about Clifford and George and Franklin never do. They are written as literature, not as "kiddie books." The writer knew how to tell a story with engaging characters, compelling plot turns, and believable dialogue. Those are the books that I hope he still loves years from now.

Here are a few of my favorites.
One night, in a phosphorescent sea, he marveled at the sight of some whales spouting luminous water; and later, lying on the deck of his boat gazing at the immense, starry sky, the tiny mouse Amos, a little speck of a living thing in the vast living universe, felt thoroughly akin to it all.With a long, rusty nail they tried to make a hole to peep through. "It is only a question of patience!" said Tillie. But after working an entire morning they gave up, exhausted, without having made even a dent in the hard stone.We didn't breathe for a whole minute. That dog just blinked. Then, slowly, he looked up with sad and patient eyes. Then, slowly, he looked up with sad and patient eyes. He blinked again, like he was giving it a second thought. Then he stood up, shook himself, and began to walk - like he was old and tired - toward the end of the garden.There was a little rabbit hutch there, and next to the rabbit hutch was a little run with chicken wire all around it. My dad sat on the grass, in the chicken wire run, reading his newspaper and eating a carrot. He looked a bit lonely, and he had grass all over his trousers.A few months later, Emily Brown and Stanley were lying fast asleep in bed, dreaming of all the adventures they would have the next day, when there was absolutely no noise at all at the door, or the gate, or the window. Silently, in crept the Queen's Special Commandos... and they STOLE the rabbit that belonged to Emily Brown.There were lima beans for dinner and I hate limas. There was kissing on TV and I hate kissing. My bath was too hot, I got soap in my eyes, my marble went down the drain, and I had to wear my railroad-train pajamas. I hate my railroad-train pajamas.

What are your favorite not-exactly-for-children kid's books?

Thursday, February 10, 2011


This post will almost certainly be irrelevant in twelve hours.

Hearing now that a) the Egyptian army is taking control of the country, and b) Mubarak will almost certainly be stepping down today.

I know almost nothing about Egypt, but from what I understand, Mubarak's been running the country with an iron fist for decades. So removing him from power would be a tremendous step forward. But is it enough?

If Egypt remains under a state of emergency, is anything really changing?

If the military takes command and it continues authoritarian rule, is this really a victory?

Is the goal merely driving Mubarak from power, or is true democracy the goal? What is victory in Egypt?

When will the protestors know that they have won?
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Monday, February 07, 2011


Groupon fucked up.

I can't speculate why they did it. Maybe they were forced to quickly develop an ad after they found out LivingSocial was running one. Maybe they seriously thought the ad agency that developed Burger King's Subservient Chicken was the perfect outfit to promote their brand. I dunno.

What I know, however, is that as soon as that Tibet ad for Groupon ran, all hell broke loose on Twitter. I started seeing boycott talk within minutes. Instant outrage.

What happened? Well, if you believe Groupon, they wanted to do something that would promote their brand by mocking people who felt passionately about causes.

Er ... no, that's not right.

No, they wanted to mock themselves. Yeah, that's the ticket. So they did it by making fun of the disappearing rainforest, dying whales, and the suffering of the Tibetan people. Sure, that's a great way to mock yourself.

Well, here, you can read what Groupon's CEO said, in his defense:
Our ads highlight the often trivial nature of stuff on Groupon when juxtaposed against bigger world issues, making fun of Groupon. Why make fun of ourselves? Because it’s different – ads are traditionally about shameless self promotion, and we’ve always strived to have a more honest and respectful conversation with our customers. We would never have run these ads if we thought they trivialized the causes – even if we didn’t take them as seriously as we do, what type of company would go out of their way to be so antagonistic?
Got it? So, by trivializing the causes mentioned in the ads, they never meant to trivialize the causes. Sure, that makes sense.

Somehow, Groupon failed to notice that there are still a hell of a lot of us who take those "causes" seriously. I got very excited for a few seconds when the ad started, because I was so impressed that someone had managed to get a political ad running on the Super Bowl. And then Tim Hutton started talking about fish curry, and I realized I'd been tricked. And I got angry. A lot of us got angry.

Groupon has tried to defend themselves by noting that they started out as a "cause-based website," and therefore ... something. Therefore, they get why cause marketing is so important? Therefore, they never gave a fuck about those goddamn causes in the first place? It's hard to take them at their word when their own community forum has this lovely message from one of their staffers:
Cause-marketers bombard us with celebrity endorsements, emotional pleas and percentage-based models that passively generate donations without converting champions around the issue.
(I will note that there was a much more offensive version of this message posted earlier by someone named Patty H. That message said something about "manipulating people into giving." I should have taken a screenshot. That message has since been deleted.)

Hey, thanks for making all of us fundraisers in the nonprofit world look like assholes! I made my money for several years doing grassroots fundraising - oh, excuse me, bombarding people with emotional pleas.

Groupon also says that they're all about raising money for these important causes. That's why you saw a link to a major Tibetan NGO during the Tim Hutton ad. Oh, wait, you didn't. Whoopsie!

Groupon is getting slammed for these tasteless and heartless ads, and they deserve every bit of it. Look at their community forums. Every thread that tries to promote the "cause marketing" side of these ads is being bombarded by angry users and angry ex-users.

It is important to care about causes. The world changes when people stop thinking about their own lives and begin focusing on larger causes - like the Nazi holocaust, like the oppression of African Americans in this country, like the environment, like global warming. Groupon made a huge mistake in assuming that they could use serious causes as a backdrop for a cynical ad campaign.

So now they're apologizing. Fine. I'm not satisfied. I want to see some serious penance. Want to make up for this? Start running some serious prime-time ads promoting the people of Tibet, protection of the rainforest, and saving those whales that you don't seem to give a fuck about. Start writing your own checks to important causes, not just collecting donations while you rake in record profits. You want to show us that causes matter to you? Prove it.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Office Politics

This is the biggest company I've ever worked for. It's actually the first actual private company I've worked for in a decade - a sudden change from the nonprofit world. This is a real company with dozens and dozens of employees.

I'm used to small shops. In the past, I've been the one-person development team. I would write the fundraising appeal, walk it down to the printer, pick up the copies when they were done, print the mailing labels, fold and stuff the envelopes, take them to the post office, and enter the checks when they started rolling in. Here, I've got departments. There's a marketing department, a sales department, an IT department, an executive team, an events team, teams of people who do what I used to do by myself.

It's weird, people.

You would think it would be a relief to have a team of people to rely on, but it's the opposite. I'm not used to having other people taking on tasks. When I'm sending out a marketing email blast, I have four different people from three different teams that have to sign off on it. That's odd - I'm used to just writing the thing myself and sending it.

And then there's the office politics. When you work in a small office, everyone has to get along. You might have petty grievances, but everyone has to get along and fundamentally like each other - otherwise, you're doomed. Not the case at a big company. People have to work together, but they do not have to like each other.

So my team, the marketing team, is not thought of highly in the office. It's our job to protect the brand. We approve any writing that goes out from our company, and in my case, we monitor online discussions to see what people are saying about us. Everyone else in the office thinks they have better ideas than the marketing team, but it's not their job to come up with the ideas to raise our brand's profile and build new customers. It's our job. They can throw out ideas, but it's ultimately our job. So they resent us.

The IT team is generally seen as a bunch of know-it-alls who are notoriously dismissive of most new ideas for technology. So most people hate the IT team. They work with them, but people talk shit about the IT director behind his back.

It goes on like this. IT doesn't particularly like us, we're not particularly fond of the new products team even though we have to sell what they're creating. The events team gets a lot of flak. And the sales - yeesh. Everyone resents the sales team. Everyone thinks they can do a better job than the sales team. Everyone thinks the entire sales team should be gutted and replaced. (And I mean gutted literally. Think Wolverine.)

But at our best, we lay down the swords and work well together. I just had a meeting last week - the IT, marketing and sales teams were all in the same room together. And we were bonding well. We laughed at each other's jokes. We enthused over each other's ideas. It happens. At the best of times, we appreciate each other's ideas and we genuinely like working with the other teams.

But at the worst ... well, I've used the term "trench warfare" more than once.

I like it better when we get along. I love the people we work with, on all sides. I am always impressed by the dedication and passion of my co-workers. But the trench warfare gets to me sometimes. I start getting into the backbiting, the closed-door smack talking, the petty grievances. Anger is addictive. It's fun, to be perfectly honest. In a childish sort of way, it's fun to compile a list of the things you hate about your co-workers. But it's not healthy, and it's no way to run a company.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mistaken Monster

I have vivid dreams these days, thanks to anti-anxiety medicine. Last night was a typically wild affair. I won't bore you with the details (there's nothing so pointless as trying to explain a dream to another person), but at one point, there was a monster who I was trying and failing not to disturb. His bed somehow got tipped over, he fell down, and I was convinced that he was about to kill me. So I ran. I ran in one direction and then another and kept looking back to see if he was behind me. I never saw him again.

In the dream, I assumed that I had lost him. But maybe there's another solution. Maybe the monster wasn't after me at all. Maybe I assumed that he was going to kill me, and maybe he was just going to find another bed.

The monster might not be trying to kill me. All scary things are not necessarily out to get me. I'm going to use that as my message for the day.

I've had some difficult interactions with co-workers today, so I'm going to use this to reframe the way I work with them. They're not necessarily trying to kill me - maybe I don't need to run and hide from them. Maybe I'll do better if I don't assume they're trying to murder me.