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Your awesome tagline (I didn't forget to edit this, this is actually my tagline.)

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Toys R Us not honoring pricing

One of the great things about our country is we have the option to choose how we conduct business.  Additionally, it allows us to voice our opinions publicly.

Today my daughter wanted to go to Toys R Us to use a gift card for her birthday.  She picked out a new lego set that she found online at toysrus.com.  Their online price of $27.99 was within her budget.

The details of the transaction are described below in my feedback I sent to Toys R Us corporate.

My daughter went to your store at SUNSET HILLS [9565] to get this item she found online for her birthday http://www.toysrus.com/product/index.jsp?productId=12356822  At the store it was marked $39.99 rather than the $27.99 price advertised online at toysrus.com.

At the register, I pulled up the online price and the cashier refused to honor the online price.  I asked for the manager and she also refused to honor the online price despite the fact I could order it on my phone right there and pick it up in the store.

Your Price Match Guarantee states, “We’ll match Toysrus.com and Babiesrus.com online pricing in our stores, except for online-only prices.”  Nowhere does the online price say it is online-only.

So we left without her birthday gift.  I cannot begin to express how disappointed I am at this experience.  My only satisfaction is, it was a valuable lesson for her to learn how and where to spend her money.

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Making Aikido

People talk about making music. When you first learn to play an instrument,
you do exercises and play already-written songs. In the beginning, you can
convert the notes on the page to audible tones, sometimes in the correct
rhythm. Over time, the sequenced tones start to sound pleasing. Eventually
you can play recognizable tunes. Ultimately, the ability to make music is
no longer a transcription of notes-on-a-page to rhythm and tones, but a
personal interpretation of the composers original intentions. This is
making music.

I’ve had a glimpse of what it means to “make aikido”. My 2nd kyu test is no
longer a checklist of techniques, but rather “show me what you know.” The
test is 3 techniques against any attack, but in reality it is a test to
show how you are able to use aikido. In preparing for this test, I have my
possible responses listed, but in practice the response is less scripted
and more adapted. While practicing, I will exhaust my known techniques
until I can’t come up with any more. What I have found is that I have been
able to create my own techniques that were not necessarily taught, or if
they were, they are not on my list.

It has become less of “I will now perform technique X” and more of
“technique Y happened because it was right.” I can’t say this happens
naturally all the time, but when given the freedom to experiment, some
interesting things happen.

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It’s interesting how, when I have some of the most thought provoking
ideas to write about, I don’t want to write them down.

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Keeping my sanity

I’ve recently changed organizations withing Boeing and I’ve been put into a
leadership position where I’m in charge of 2 teams, a half a dozen
projects, and about a dozen people. The level of administrative work to
keep everyone busy and reporting to management has blown up exponentially.
To keep on top of all the tasks, I’m using some techniques that might seem
a bit unconventional or counter-intuitive.

First rule: I don’t read e-mail. I get a LOT of e-mail now, most of which
I don’t need to do anything with. Or, if I wait a little bit, will resolve
itself. I used to read every bit of e-mail I got, when I got it, and
respond immediately. By chance, my inbox got backed up while I was on
travel. When I was able to get to it, I selectively read messages I needed
to get to. Other messages were left unread and are still unread. And you
know, the world didn’t end. Many things got resolved by other people, and
the e-mail that didn’t get read weren’t important anyway. I’ve found that
by not being immediately responsive, the knee-jerk reaction to send me
e-mails goes away. By doing this, I’m training my own coworkers.

Keep your activities. I have a martial arts training regiment that keeps
me out of the office in the mornings, and many times I have to leave early
for one reason or another. I still get in my hours, but I’m not always
physically present. When overwhelmed with work, many people abandon their
outside activities and spend more time at work. I’ve made
a conscience decision to keep these activities. As a similar result as the
e-mail plan, coworkers don’t “just stop by” and disrupt my day. I tell
them I’m not going to be there, and again, the world doesn’t end.

Lingering todo list. This one is more traditional. I keep a small pad of
paper where I write down things that need to be done that come up during
the day. I make a point to throw them away after a day or two. We have a
system to add “backlog items” that need to be worked and assigned to a
person. This is a great way to delegate and keep things off of your own
plate.

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Avis is just all right with me

For 16 years, I have traveled with National Car Rental for work. They have been dependable and their frequent driver program is convenient. Starting this year, Boeing has switched preferred car rental providers from National to Avis. This was quite a shock, and required several weeks of mourning to get over the breakup. Only 14 days into this new relationship, I’m forced to meet my new partner face to face on a business trip. This is going to be hard, I thought.

Expecting to have to barter my sandals for a camel and safe passage, I packed an extra pair of shoes. As I approached the counter, I made awkward eye contact, pretending not to have seen her. There was no denying the initial attraction, and we approached each other. As I handed over my license and credit card, our fingertips touched ever so briefly. It was electric (technically, static electricity). Two signatures later, our fate was sealed. As I walked away, I caught a glimpse of National out of the corner of my eye. I tried not to look, but curiosity got the better of me and, I’m ashamed to admit, I took one last longing gaze. The ink stains of my afternoon courtship were clearly visible, and there was no denying it. I may have detected a hint of a smile as I passed, perhaps as if to say, “I’ll always be here for you, if you are to return.”

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My stab at explaining introvert communication

Here’s a thought I had about trying to explain how introverts communicate.  

Everyone has an internal monologue.  I’m going to hypothesize that this monologue is very linear for extroverts and wildly disjointed for introverts.  When extroverts speak, they simply connect their brain to their mouths and out comes (disputably) coherent language.  However, when introverts speak, this inner monologue doesn’t directly translate to coherent speech.  This monologue isn’t just non-linear, but multi-dimensional.  When an introvert attempts to talk to someone without taking considerable time to turn these multi-dimensional thoughts into something that fits linear speech, the result comes off as fragmented and disconnected sentences.

Over time, we learn to simply stay quiet until our thoughts are fully formed.  This is largely due to being misunderstood when we attempt to communicate in an extroverted world.  The labels quiet and reserved are often used for introverts.  Perhaps it is a self-defense mechanism.

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Why I drink Kaldi’s Coffee

About a year ago I started drinking coffee.  It started as a social exercise when my morning aikido group would get coffee after morning training.  Now, if brewed correctly, I really enjoy my morning coffee.

I’ve written in the past both about how businesses have done things well, and how they have truly failed my lowest expectations.  Kaldi’s is one of those companies that impresses me, and I support their business solely because of that.  I could honestly buy anyone’s coffee (within reason) and brew it to be drinkable.  What follows is what they have done to win my business.

The past two years I have volunteered at BikeMS.  A buddy of mine works at the MS Society, and he asked me to help.  It’s a long weekend and a lot of work, but I have a blast.  The people are great and so is the cause.  I have absolutely no connection to the cause except for my friend.

Many companies support the event by buying a large team tent to host their employees over the weekend.  Some teams use it as a landing zone for bikes while others have huge catered meals and make it one big party.  Kaldi’s is one of those companies that host their employees throughout the weekend through meals, drinks, music, etc.  They go the extra step to make this an event that is about the employees.  As a result, they have a huge employee turnout.

I spent a lot of time in their tent talking to the president of the company and watching the interactions between the employees.  The energy in their tent was so positive.  It wasn’t an extravagant event, but you could see how the company went out of their way to make this a great event.  They had a PR crew with professional video equipment to document the event, everyone was happy and talking, and you could tell that this was the place to be if you worked for Kaldi’s.

Many other companies were at BikeMS with similar sized tents and teams, but the atmosphere was different.  Not bad.  It is hard to describe, but in comparison, all things being equal the place I would want to work would be Kaldi’s.

So I support Kaldi’s by giving them my business because I support not only what they do, but how they do it.  It’s this incredible part of business that they can’t teach in business school, but makes all the difference.  By making this positive experience, they increase employee involvement, improve morale, increase business, and benefit a worthy cause.  In the same way, companies fail because failing to promote this positive energy can not only make these factors not increase, but can send them crashing to the ground.

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All knowing Oracle

Most large-scale events have a single person who is the go-to person for all questions.  I’ve been that person, and I’ve watched other people perform this role.  It’s an exhausting position to hold, and it becomes worse as the event progresses.

I volunteered at BikeMS, and my friend was that all-knowing oracle.  We had radios, and everyone knew that they could ask Dan any question.  At the beginning of the event, questions needed an authoritative answer.  But as the event progressed, the questions digressed to the mundane such as whether or not the trash should be emptied. People got so used to asking questions that they no longer could think for themselves.

I’ve been the question-answerer for events.  By accident, I had to by unavailable for some period of time in the middle of the event.  And you know what happened?  People tried to find me, but when I was unavailable, they figured it out for themselves.  The event didn’t come to a screeching halt without me.

So here’s my recommendation, when you find yourself being critical to the point of being indispensable, dispense of yourself.  Completely vanish without telling anyone.  Go get lunch by yourself.  It may seem that everything you’re supporting will fail, but you’ll likely discover that everything will be just fine, and likely it will be better.

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How would I respond?

I often wonder how I would respond to the tough political questions that our presidential candidates have to answer. In particular, questions on issues like birth control, abortion, and capital punishment. It’s interesting how these questions strongly divide people in the name of religion or other personal convictions.

No matter the question, the issue is very complicated and almost never cut and dry. Even the fact that there is any opposition to an issue proves that there is a discussion to be had. Perhaps the fact that I would want to have a dialog about an issue would make me a bad politician. That, and many other resons, but I digress.

Here is my best response: My personal views on the issue influence how I approach a dialog. My religious background may shape my character, but to use my political power to force my personal views on another against their will is an abuse of power. You shouldn’t elect me because of my personal convictions, but because of my ability to objectively weigh opposing views for the greater view. If you think that I will blindly follow a religious position, you are electing the wrong person. And if you think that my religious views will not affect my decisions you are also mistaken.

maybe I’d make a good politician after all.