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This is the archive for June 2005

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

I've been in San Jose and San Francisco for going on two weeks now. I thought I'd have more time for blogging, but alas, it was not to be. I attended eBay Live, both the developer's conference and the main conference, which I should have known would not leave me a minute free all last week. They were awesome experiences, and I'll have something to say here about eBay soon. But what really has wasted my time is having my car towed in three times to three different Pep Boys for the same problem. Thanks alot for your excellent work, guys.

Anyway, I hope to be on a more prolific blogging schedule next week. Thanks for reading, both of you.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

What's the first thing a tourist does when he is away from home and seeing things that, while maybe mundane to those who see them everday, are things he may have never seen before? He starts taking pictures. Pictures are souvenirs, reminders of a place he may never get to experience again. They are also a way to share those experiences with others who might not get to see them for themselves.

But they also serve another function. They say "I was here". They don't leave a mark on the place itself, but they serve to retain a little piece of the place, to mark the place in the tourist's memory as something he owned, if only in his experience and for a fleeting moment.

This is one of the most glorious sunsets I've ver seen. No, I wasn't there, I will likely never be there and never have an opportunity to take such a profound picture myself.



It's not such a spectacular sunset in itself - there's no dramatic colors, except for maybe the dusky red of the sky itself. There's no dramatic rays of light through the clouds, or shimering oblongation of the sun as it's light travels through miles of rippling atmosphere.

But this picture is dramatic. It says "We Were Here". And not only that, it says that we had the time, the resources, and the interest to stop and look around - to look up from the business at hand and enjoy the once in a lifetime vista that had nothing in itself to do with the business at hand.

It's important precisely because it doesn't matter - it doesn't further the mission nor is the expense and time justified by the reason that we were there in the first place. It's profoundly important because it gives us all a little piece of someplace we may never be ourselves, but may be an everyday site for our descendants.

No human took this picture. No human has yet set foot in this place where such wonders can be found. But it was the human mind that made this picture possible. And if we can send our automated rover to this place and have it sep back and take silly irrelevant pictures like any other tourist, it won't be long before the real tourists will be there, in their Hawaiian shirts and sandals, clumsily stumbling over the rocks and dunes while oohing and aahing over the everday sights unimaginable to them in their homes today.

This picture is of a sunset on Mars. We're heading out, folks, and we won't be looking back except for the occasional picture back at that ever shrinking bright disk behind us that marks the place where we were born.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Billy Beck had some rather bleak thoughts on the State of the Union this morning. Follow the links, it's well worth the rather extensive reading. (Kim du Toit's main post is at the bottom of the comments page, so scroll down to read it, before moving on to the comments). The basic question is "When does the shooting start?"

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Speculist has the latest edition of the Carnival of Tomorrow. It's a rundown of some of the latest in Advancement Tech. (Of course, they don't call it "Advancement Tech" - yet. Nobody does, but they will...). Be sure to click to the main page and scroll down past the Carnival to the article on a new twist on solar power. A 3-foot parabolic reflector that melts aluminum, and predictions of a new age of steam power. Fascinating, and very promising.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

You know who you are.

You've never met anyone who thinks like I do.

Monday, June 06, 2005

How many of us grownups look back wistfully on the decades of our twenties and wish we had this kind of focus and clarity of purpose?
I must learn economics. I will throw aside everything else to learn it [...] I have spent 20 years on this earth, and only have about 60 years of useful life ahead of me. I have no more time to learn the fallacies which I am to refute. I have no more time to learn what a sick, diseased body looks like; I must learn what health looks like. Both time and my patience are short.

I wish him success. I was going to say I wish him luck, but I suspect luck will have nothing to do with it.
I work for one of those delusional retail companies that think they can hire just anybody and turn them into stellar customer service people if they just give them enough of that magic-bullet customer service "training". What's worse, is that this company subscribes to the disastrously illogical model that treats coworkers and other departments as "customers". This means that even the programming guys (me) and the maintenance men have to be subjected to it.

I've seen this many times, at many different companies. My interpretation of the essence of what this kind of training tries to convey is this:
The ABC's of Customer Service

Give the customer what they want, whether it is reasonable, or even possible, or not

Repress your opinions and feelings, and even the truth if necessary

Open yourself to the customer's feelings

Validate the customer's preconceived notions

Enthusiasm! (Whether you feel it or not)

Leave your self at home - you don't count, only the customer does.


This is not the way to good customer service, and even if it was, no self-respecting person would put up with it. If you don't already know how to be nice to people, and how to provide value to your company through your dealings with people, then this kind of training won't help you. All it will do is set your value in yourself at odds with your customer. Every customer becomes an intrusion, a drain on your time, energy, and self-esteem.

To be fair, this particular indoctrination session did include, ever so briefly, a small piece of Stephen Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective People", and this is where I go off on a tangent that actually fits the theme of this blog.

If you want to advance yourself, there's certain core skills that are necessary. You can survive without them, and most people do, but you cannot advance without them. You have to be able to accomplish the things you want to do, and you have to be able to work with other people to accomplish additional goals. But the internal successes have to come first. They cannot be created externally and given to you. Without them, the external successes cannot be achieved through any list of random techniques designed to make you a success with the snap of your fingers.

"7 Habits" is not one of those touchy-feely piece of crap self-help books out there full of random techniques and clever sayings and false self-esteem. It's a book of principles. I'm big on principles, and these are correct principles. It's not automatic. It demands a lot of work. It doesn't say a lot about how to do the work, it just provides a direction for that work to follow.

Advancement is hard work, and it takes everything you've got, both mentally and physically. Especially mentally. And it takes integrity - not just honesty, but the kind of integrity where everything you do and say and think fits together as a unified whole and serves the one common purpose of your life. This book gives you a starting point for that, but it can only get you so far. The rest is up to you. Get there, and you won't need any self-destroying "customer service training." Dealing with other people, including customers, in a productive way will just be part of who you are - what you are.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Those poor British subjects. Leaving aside the fact that they openly and proudly think of themselves as subjects (3 guesses what the verb is), they've got a Prime Minister who doesn't know how to leave well enough alone.