Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Facebook - virtual surreality

Facebook, unlike MySpace, has created this seemingly more wholesome connection tool that brings people together in a familiar, yet veiled, sort of way, resembling a cloud-like dating scene.

And I say that with some humility. It makes me look at my own reasons for "friending" someone, as Mira puts it. I guess my reasons are not without selfish intent... we put our best (if not honest) face forward in an imperfectly created virtual world. We never touch. We never talk. So, how honest is it?

I think in this day and age, these networks resemble high school all over again. The high school of being able to drive to a friend's house and hang out when we wanted to. The high school before work and family sucked the time out of the weekends to pay back the time our parents sacrificed for us. It's the continuum of karma. But I digress.

Remember when it was easy to see your friends everyday and hang out with the ones you clicked with, when you wanted to? Easy access, I call it. Then there were those friends you liked to hang with but only for shorter periods of time - for various reasons, not because they weren't good people. It's great to see them and catch up and joke, but seriously - there's a reason we didn't stay in touch, right? Too many people, too little time.

Thus the surreality of "friends" on Facebook and MySpace, etc... MyMike likes to say that reunions are sort of dumb because the people we still keep in touch with we liked. I say, we kept in touch with those we wished to and accepted those who wished to keep in touch with us because of convenience. And here's my dilemma: These portals are like very clean windows to the lives of people whom we used to know, and yet did not stay in touch with; however, I find myself drawn to their current lives, if for no other reason than to compare and contrast what I knew of them myopically, years ago, only to be stunned by their freshness and personalities today in the lives they've chosen, in the window they chose to open to us.

Fascinating, to be sure. I count myself as one who has left a few smears on my window because I am not a fan of too clean a life. Clearly... I live now with chickens.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Where's the list that lists all my lists?

I have a love/hate relationship with lists.

On one side, I despise being beholden to any "thing" that tells me what I need to do.

On the other, I desperately neeeeed them to make sure I don't forget anything I am beholden to.

Savvy? I'd say not. So, where is my master list of the lists? It's a piece of paper on a notead among many notepads, shrewn here and there within my growing pile of To Do. I still can't find it. But what I can find are old lists that were once referenced by the master list. These I go through when I find them and scratch out the Completed items, then rewrite a new master list.

It's complicated. But it's also a good exercise for my brain which seems to be failing lately. Slightly. Sporadically.

I was once a major list-maker, aka Project Manager. I have tried all kinds of tools to get a project organized and keep a project organized and make sure other people within the project were organized until the very end - even when deadlines stretched and the scope crept. But nothing, short of being tethered to a computer, compares to a notepad and a sharp #2.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Sometimes a cup o' joe in the afternoon really hits the spot. Sometimes it just leads to more disorientation and jitters. Inevitably, though, the aroma is what draws me in most... It makes me think I want a smooth, delicious cup to sip genteelly - when in actuality, it gets in my way and I end up gulping it down before it's too chilled.

I don't fancy cold coffee, unless it's iced and pretty.

A paradox?

I can control my dreams?

I had a most wonderful dream this morning of which I recall very little now. It was embracing and comforting, and I smiled in spite of having to get up and start my physical day.

There was a time, and I can sometimes practice this without being frustrated, when I could surf my dreams and alter the outcome. I used to practice this when I was in my teens because I felt the need to rid myself of many irrational fears that I kept to myself and never told anyone - until now. It was then that I began to actively "fly" in my dreams to get away from a perceived, scary situation or encroaching, nameless foe. I remember passively doing this when I was younger, and I thought I was special. As it turns out, many people fly in their dreams, however, not knowing that back then had allowed me a cushion of courage, that I possessed certain powers, to help control myself - "myself" being my ego which cast fear and doubt on just about everything I attempted.

Today, I realize that it was just part of growing up in an insecure environment, but I believe it helped me move through the levels in my life, leaving behind the things that would drag me down and/or cause undue fear. Perhaps an analogy is in order, but one doesn't come to mind as yet.

Today, it's a bit harder to fly solo since family is a huge part of my life, so instead I have decided to work through as many fears and miscommunications in order to appreciate those attached to me - by choice or not - and dig who they are, deep down in the roots of the person they think they are or wish to be. Because intent is a powerful thing.

So - I say, "teach them to fly (with me or away from me) or leave them on the ground to suffer their own slings and arrows." That's a little harsh, but realistic when you come to the understanding that you can only control yourself and your surroundings - no one else.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Good bye eFax/J2Fax

I love how technology allows customer service reps to copy and paste scripted rebuttals and offers during a chat session. The chat session was the "only" way to cancel my eFax account (other than hunting for a phone number, cleverly embedded within the knowledgebase). So, I had to install another piece of software I'll use this once just to get this:
(btw, "this" was the second go around, having nearly completed the cancelation the first time until my computer decided to reboot)

Welcome to chat.
The session has been accepted.
{- Stanley K.} Hello, Cynthia. Welcome to j2 Global online support. I am Stanley, your online Live Support Representative. How may I assist you?
{cynthia} I was disconnected earlier when I was trying to cancel my acct
{- Stanley K.} I am sorry to hear that you wish to cancel. Could you please provide me with your Fax number and PIN for verification?
{cynthia} I am not interested in your offer for a couple of months free
{cynthia} fax\PIN
{- Stanley K.} Please give me a moment, while I quickly check your account.
{- Stanley K.} Thank you for providing your information. Please type the number corresponding to your reason for cancellation:

1) Moving to another provider
2) Bought a Fax machine
3) Business or role changed
4) Short term project completed
5) Financial reasons
6) Problems with Faxing or Billing
7) Dissatisfied with Quality of service
8) Too Costly

{cynthia} 8
{cynthia} is this really going to take this long?
{- Stanley K.} Cynthia, we really value your long association and relationship with us. As you are one of our esteemed customer, we understand that you currently find it too expensive to pay the monthly fee. In this situation, we will waive the monthly fee for the next two months. This will allow you to use the fax service without a monthly fee for the next two billing cycles. Usage charges are applicable for sending faxes.
{- Stanley K.} Your eFax account will be credited with $33.90. You may use our services without being billed the monthly fee for the next two billing cycles. By this way, you can derive maximum value for the money you have spent for our services.
{- Stanley K.} As you will not be charged the monthly fee for the next two months, you could keep the account till then. If you still feel that you do not have any use for our services by the end of the two months credit period, please feel free to contact us anytime. Will that be fine ?
{cynthia} dude - I said no
{cynthia} can u please just cancel this acct?
{- Stanley K.} I completely understand your wish to discontinue, since you have already paid for the month, we do not want you to lose out on the money. I suggest you to retain this number at least till the end of two months credit offer as you will not be charged any monthly fee for the two months. As a good will gesture to continue our association we will offer you an additional gift balance of $10 along with the monthly credit which will enable to send up to 100 additional fax pages free of cost(per page per minute within US & Canada).
{- Stanley K.} During this two months credit period, you can keep this service active and if you use it once in these two months we will be more than happy that we were able to serve you.
{- Stanley K.} If you do not wish to continue beyond this waiver period, then there is no obligation to continue. There are no contracts. All you would need to do is, contact us just once, anytime during this credit period to re-confirm your decision. We are at your service, round the clock, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can reevaluate your faxing needs during this period.
{cynthia} I have been evaluating my fax needs for years and have continued the service through ridiculous increases... it does not suit my needs, please stop reading from a script and cancel my acct.
{- Stanley K.} All right, I respect your decision and will cancel your number immediately.
{- Stanley K.} We are sorry that you have decided to leave eFax. We are continuously improving our products and services. Please do consider us if your faxing needs should change in the future. We would be more than happy to have you back.
{- Stanley K.} Is there anything else I can assist you with today?
{cynthia} will I get a confirmation email?
{- Stanley K.} Yes, you will receive an email confirmation as regards to cancelation of your account immediately after this chat session gets over.

Wow... wasn't that fun? It only took 13 minutes to get through [sarcasm dripping].

Sunday, October 12, 2008

We're in a recession?

Seriously, we've been in a personal recession since the bubble burst back in 2000.

That's right... we're dotcom refugees.

Nothing huge or grandiose. It was just our career path for about as long as the Web was around. We had fun. We had faith. We invested our own cash into tech stocks and our own companies as much as we could.

Did I say we had faith?

It's true. We had fun. We met great, talented people - both young and old, green and seasoned - and worked together to build SOMETHING. That was what we did.

Did I say we had fun?

Well, we did. Startups are a crazy style of company. Your development group or sales group or even the operations people - possibly all the same person - become your second family. We'd eat together and work insane hours to make deadlines. In the daily passing of time, many stories are shared and you get to know each person as the person they really are - beyond the interview - when you realize you were spot-on in hiring this person. It's a bonding experience that never goes away. Even when we have to hire more people to expand, and the core group doesn't spend as much time together as they used to because they are training and sharing with others. We don't get to spend much time with each other again because growth is its own animal, sort of like growing up together and going off to college. A drink or a meal every now and then to catch up is the mode, but that bond never changes.

It's why when we interviewed people, one of the beacons we looked for was a personality. A good one. Not a fake interview one - though I must admit that I did hire one or two of those types out of desperation to fill a position with a qualified candidate - and guess what? Each time it came back to bite me (personally) in the ass... but that's another story. You see, a personality is hugely important when times are stressful. Team members need a sense of self and a sense of humor that will help them rise above the office politics and personality conflicts that inevitably develop. Especially when things become territorial. And they always become territorial when a company grows. "I can't lose my job, man."

Communication is essential. Honest communication is crucial.

This is how things go awry. When you've got a core team of, say, 5 people - all running research and development, sales and marketing and making sure the coffee pot stays full, it's called teamwork or symbiosis. Each member cares for the other, not simply out of good manners, but because the outcome hinges on each one creating a solid foundation as a whole. You know the chair analogy: it's all about balance and keeping each other propped up. "Sure, I can see that you're swamped right now, I'll answer the phones," or "You've got carpal tunnel? You dictate and I'll type for you." These are the things I speak of. We prop each other up when appropriate in order to keep the balance.

It's the times when communication fails that we experience imbalance. "I've just made a deal with this huge company who will infuse cash for expansion, and all will be good," said our CEO.

It looked good on paper. When questioned about the details, though... the train of communication broke down and we were left at the station with a task list. Our input became secondary and we had to fight to be heard. That lack of understanding the new machinations lead to a slow corrosion of trust and motivation. Now we were beholden to an entity of which we had no connection... and they only wanted a "small hand" in running the business. In actuality, they held the purse strings. And they held them tightly.

It looked good on paper and in theory we had nothing to fear or distrust. But I wouldn't be writing about it right now if it hadn't affected me, personally, in the long run - for good or bad. This is one example, though loosely framed, of a few of these communication breakdowns I have experienced. It's never fun, but I always learn something about myself and the wild world of business in which I used to participate.

I was at the top of my game then, making $85k with 2% of the company in stock options - a fair negotiation for a crazy idea and options always offset your salary in those days, if you were an honest, fair person who wasn't greedy, who wanted to leave something for the other potential employees. In the end - because the details of this are their own long story - I chose to drop out and simplify. That, in and of itself, was a long, unwinding road... It took, literally, years to decompress. Everything from 1993-2000 was so fast and furious that the moments where we allowed ourselves to breathe were like mini vacations - even just a hike in the woods or an afternoon visiting family. Still, always connected to e-mail or a cell phone (even when they weighed 2 lbs). Nature and my family were my only haven in those days, and I sought more of it.

My own imbalance became frightfully evident one day. But that is another post.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I have visions...

For as long as I can remember, I have these thoughts - auditory visions if you can stretch this analogy - when seemingly, my mind should be turned off and relaxing, enjoying the mindless broadcast from the tube or sitting in the spaces between material and natural, visiting it seems, the edges of my own sanity.

In other words, I talk to myself. Not out loud, of course, because that's
just crazy.

My ego speaks to me when I seek quiet. A noisy respite from my own daily doings. It really should be more quiet, and often I can turn down the volume or shut it up - literally sometimes - I say out loud, "enough!", as if that is required to make my ego listen and pipe down for a moment. I choose this action when there is repetitive, negative haranguing of someone I am clearly not speaking with at the moment - a dress rehearsal of sorts for the actual moment when I may pick up my skirt and read the riot act to someone that my ego has deemed unworthy of "live and let live".

People bug me.

But back to my nagging ego. I shall label it Nego because it is the negative aspect of my ego.

This Nego I must control verbally at times, but it is there as an indicator that I need to chill out.
On the flip side, which is the reason for this little tirade, I have a brilliantly quiet ego that chatters incessantly when I'm tired or exhausted, forcing me to take a moment to listen because, lo and behold, it's really good stuff. I have dreams occasionally - as do most people - that are simply brilliant. Answers to life's indecision or a way to secure the chicken coop for winter or the truly best way to eat an Oreo.

I haven't named this part of my ego yet. Perhaps it will come in one of my "visions".