Saturday, December 10, 2011


Tonight was our company's seasonal celebration, the holiday party that culminates our year. A tradition we've followed since before we even started PT, the SC gives us a chance to thank our staff and their families. It's a swanky, fun event, but it's also exhausting, because I spend most of it working--and a great deal of time beforehand helping make it happen. So, for now, no tux picture, but soon, really.

Now, work, and then sleep.

Friday, December 9, 2011

The essence of great service

I think a lot about this topic, because our company is in the service business. I talk to others about it. I contemplate how we provide service, and I pay attention to the service that others provide me.

After all this consideration, I come back to a basic principle and a corollary, both of which fit nicely in one sentence:

Great service comes from doing what your client wants, not from doing what you want to do.
Another way to say both parts, by the way, is that great service comes from putting your client ahead of yourself.

Any way you phrase it, neither part is easy.

I'm going to ignore here those situations in which what the client wants is something you're not willing, for whatever reason, to do. In such cases, you have two reasonable choices: attempt to change the client's mind, or bow out.

Doing what your client wants can be difficult for multiple reasons. The client might not know what he/she wants or might have only a basic understanding of that desire. Doing what the client wants might cost more than the client is willing to pay. And so on.

Doing what your client wants might also mean not getting what you want from the encounter. If your client really wants a dress and you don't have any, you'll probably have to send the client elsewhere.

Which gets to the second part, not doing what you want to do. If you want to sell shoes and she wants dresses, you lose. That happens. Get over it. If your client wants his steak well done and you consider anything darker than medium rare to be an abomination, either kick out the guy or char that beef.

All of this sounds so easy it shouldn't be necessary to discuss, but it's not. Watch the next time you're serving someone, or someone is serving you, and odds are that the server will violate this principle sometime during the transaction. As best I can tell, at core most people don't want to put others first most of the time, so their service suffers. That's understandable, but it will always limit how good they are at what they're doing.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

On wearing a tuxedo

I was briefly considering this topic because on Saturday night I will don mine for my company's seasonal celebration. (Bill and I always wear our tuxes for this event.)

When I was young, I thought owning a tux was a sign that a man had arrived. Only later did I learn that a very basic tux costs no more than a middling suit.

I also hoped that wearing a tux would automatically make one as elegant, handsome, and suave as Cary Grant, who was the most elegant man ever in a tux. Period.

Alas, that is not the case. No one is as elegant as Cary Grant was.

Still, in my experience, most men in tuxes look well-dressed and, more importantly, the women around them say they are. I never garner as many compliments from women as when I'm in my tux.

I do appreciate those compliments, but I still yearn to be as elegant as Cary Grant--and I know I never will be.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Some nights, I gotta be a DJ

Tonight is one of them. If you hate playing music selections from others, move along; I'll be back to something else tomorrow.

For now, though, I needed to listen to this Death Cab song, which also has a deeply sentimental and lovely video.

Speaking of honest sentiment, check out this great song from Van Morrison. The video is silly and at times dumb, but at least you get the original, uncensored lyrics.

Lest I spend the entire playlist in sentiment, here's Henry and his band with some advice for the next party.

I'm gonna close on sentiment, though, with a song I've featured before that I just love. It's not the original version, but it's my favorite.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Child abuse changes your brain

If you were abused, you almost certainly already believed this.

If you read the March, 2002 Scientific American article (preview here), you were more convinced.

Now, though, the extremely respectable journal Current Biology has published an article, "Heightened neural reactivity to threat in child victims of family violence," that makes the point quite clearly with some excellent work from a group of top UK scientists. (Thanks to my pal, John Lambshead, for pointing me to this story.)

For an easy to read summary of it, check out this Wired piece, "How Abuse Changes a Child’s Brain." The article opens with this line:

The brains of children raised in violent families resemble the brains of soldiers exposed to combat, psychologists say.
Hell, many of my readers and Dave's already knew that. I sure did. Still, the scientific confirmation is good to have.

This bit summarizes the research:
His team compared fMRIs from abused children to those of 23 non-abused but demographically similar children from a control group. In the abused children, angry faces provoked distinct activation patterns in their anterior insula and right amygdala, parts of the brain involved in processing threat and pain. Similar patterns have been measured in soldiers who’ve seen combat.
The brain changes, of course, are not the only physiological adaptations to abuse (and PTSD of other sorts). As the Scientific American article and its sources made clear, key glands also change, one consequence of which is a heightened adrenaline response.

I do not mention all this to make excuses, because I don't believe any of it provides an excuse for anything I or any other abused person does. We are each responsible for our actions.

No, I'm bringing it out because I want people to understand that the cost of child abuse is high and lifelong, physical and mental, and most importantly, unacceptable.

Monday, December 5, 2011

On the road again: Las Vegas, day 4

Kyle once observed that by writing my blog I am making an implicit promise to its readers to lead an interesting life. I have certainly failed on that task today, because there's rarely much of interest in a day you spend on planes.

I slept as late as I could, worked, showered, and headed to the airport. Each step of the travel process proceeded about as you'd expect it would, with no particularly noteworthy occurrences. I see this as all to the good, because the travel days worthy of notice tend to be so because they contain particularly bad experiences. I am happy that today contains nothing exceptionally bad.

I'm home now and, thanks to bandwidth on both flights, largely caught up on email. Physical mail, unpacking, and so on await me, as usual, but that's part of the cost of travel.

Tomorrow, life returns largely to normal--or as normal as it gets in this holiday season.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

On the road again: Las Vegas, day 3

I always prefer to sleep insanely late when I can, but today that was not possible for a very good reason: a trip to the Grand Canyon. Still, I slept more than usual and awoke feeling better than usual; not a coincidence, I suspect.

We headed out on a mission to find the tour bus that was to take us to Boulder City, NV, where our helicopter awaited. The Venetian staffer I had asked had made the path sound difficult, but fortunately it was not. In no time we arrived there, and I caught up on email on my phone while waiting for the bus.

After a bit, we boarded the bus and rode for the better part of an hour, some of that going to other hotels and some on the open road.

At the Boulder City airport, we checked in, watched the safety video--a requirement of the tour group, and then joined with a few folks from Ohio on our helicopter.

I haven't been in a helicopter for a very long time, so I had forgotten how very much I like flying in them. That knowledge flooded back to me within seconds of us lifting off from the ground.

Prior to taking this helicopter trip, I wasn't sure if the ride would be worth the expense, or if I would find the Grand Canyon amazing.

I had no reason to doubt either one.

The trip was easily worth the cost, and the Grand Canyon is awesome.

I took a lot of photos and will upload more later when I'm on my main system, but for now, because it's his birthday celebration trip, this one will suffice: Kyle, in front of our helicopter, near the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

As always, click on the photo for a larger image.

The sheer scope of the canyon and its geological diversity are both stunning. I cannot recommend this trip too highly.

For the readers who have asked, yes, there was some shopping, led by the women in our group. After that, I worked, and then we headed for dinner to Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill. My last experience there was decidedly meh, but I was hoping that the Mesa Burger, about which I had read good things, would be as tasty as its reviews suggested. Alas, the burger is available only during the day, so I was out of luck. My dinner was once again meh. I won't be going back there.

The gelato at the Bellagio's Cafe Gelato, however, was as delicious as always, so the food part of the day ended on a high note.

Tomorrow is a travel and work every second I can day, but that's okay by me, because I have a ton to do. Plus, if I stayed here, I would both go broke and weigh 1,100 pounds. Still, it's been a good trip so far. I hope travel tomorrow goes well.


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