Monday, June 30, 2014

Reparations? Too Late for that!

A writer writes!

I read an opinion article the other day that supported reparations being given African American  families.  The idea may have been a good one a hundred years ago, but now it's too late.  A hundred years ago a reparations payment to an African American family to help send children to college, or to fully pay for a home would have been a building block for the future for African American families.  At this point the systematic roadblocks that have prevented African American families from achieving positive events for 200 plus years  can't be overcome through just a one time reparations payment.

In some ways the affirmative action policies of the 1970s and beyond were a form of reparations. In the 1970s Opportunities were made available and doors opened to African Americans which had been bolted shut before.  Those opportunities included admissions to colleges where African Americans had been barred from entering.  Selection of African Americans for jobs and special job programs also provided opportunities for breaking down barriers and walls that had prevented African American children from achieving elements of prosperity in America.

Simply handing a family a reparations check along with an apology no longer is an answer. Opportunity is what African Americans still need.  When those opportunities are presented it is then up to that person to fully take advantage of a door being opened.

I would rather live in a society where opportunities are continually given a person regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation or physical limitations.  Opportunities today can help to overcome the crimes of the past committed in this country against minorities, Native Americans and whomever else those people feared and hated, just because they could.

Reparations.  No thank you.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Trade Offs in Life

A writer writes!

Nothing is free in life.  That is a saying you have likely heard in your life's journey.  One other saying I often heard while growing up is "you have to work hard to get ahead."  From my life experiences I can attest to both sayings.

My being able to retire at age 55 was not a given as I grew up.  Studying hard in elementary and high school were the precursors to my being able to attend college.  The hours of time I spent working on school assignments instead of goofing off paid dividends when I entered college and into my adult years.  In college I was blessed in being at a school where recruiters from the federal government came seeking college students for paid internships with government agencies.

Once I began my federal career after college, I spent numerous hours attempting to learn the technical aspects of my job in Human Resources.  My goal was to gain enough knowledge so I would be an asset to the organization.  My goal was that my knowledge, work ethic, and results on the job would lead to promotions leading to more pay.  That is exactly what happened.  You do have to work hard to get ahead.  Even if you have natural skills in a subject area, you still have to develop, refine, or maintain those skills at a high level.

Coasting through life will result in your living a life style that will be far from satisfying.  Giving maximum effort will result in maximum results.  Work Hard to get ahead!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Customer Service - Now a Foreign Term in the United States?

A writer writes!

I encountered another customer service failure in the past week.  This time the property management company servicing our community was the culprit.  I asked a specific question and the company representative, from Kirkpatrick Management, gave me a response saying that the service I requested would be handled by a contractor.  the Kirkpatrick management representative didn't make an effort to find out from the contractor when the service would be provided.

I waited a few days and then sent a follow-up email to the neighborhood board that oversees the provision of services by Kirkpatrick.  So, with a chance to redeem himself, the representative came back with another response after our neighborhood board asked for more specifics.  The response this time identified a potential week when the services might be performed.  The property representative made no attempt to have the contractor provide a specific date.

And we wonder why foreign cars became the first choice of Americans?  Now is the time for all companies to pause and reassess whether their workers are providing the type of quality services desired by the customer.  Patrons need to boycott those companies that do not provide quality customer services.  Companies need to learn through economic losses that they just can't treat customers with disdain.

One of the more graphic current customer service failures is the scandal revolving around the Veterans Administration.  Allegedly lack of quality services may have lead to the deaths of numerous veterans.  When someone's life is at stake the services provided should be the best possible.  It is totally unacceptable for services to veterans being anything less than first rate.

Now is the time for a new customer service standard to be adopted by both private sector and governmental agencies.  It must be a standard that does not accept customer service failure.  It must be a standard that only promises the best effort in all steps of a process.  Finally, companies need to reassess whether current employees in customer service positions should remain in those positions.  New hiring of employees in customer service positions needs to be more stringent to ensure those qualities and personality characteristics needed to excel in a customer service position exists before the person is hired.

How many more failures will American companies and governmental agencies accept before making changes?  We as customers need to say, you've reached your limit of failures.  Change or lose our business.  Or in the case of governmental agencies, we demand changes now.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

It's All About Presentation - TV Coverage of "White Crime" versus "Black Crime"

A writer writes!

A Caucasian teenager was stabbed to death the other day in the upscale community of Fishers, Indiana.  Fishers is a predominantly white community with upper income residents being the norm. The upscale large homes mirrors the wealth of most residents.

The TV news coverage of the Fishers murder seemed softer than the coverage of murders that happen in the African American community.  The TV coverage of this white on white crime featured daytime news coverage versus the murky nighttime coverage afforded crimes in black neighborhoods.  TV coverage in black neighborhoods in Indianapolis features real time night time coverage of police cars with their flashing lights, shadowy silhouetted figures and people crying.  The TV coverage of the Fishers murder featured next day daytime coverage of articulate white teenagers, not crying, but being thoughtful and saying that the person who stabbed the other teen "didn't intend to kill the other person."  The Fishers TV coverage even had one "nice" photo of parents side-by-side with their grieving teenager.

Murder is murder.  So, why should the coverage of the incident be different?  Is there such a thing as a nice murder versus a bad murder?  Does it matter that the murder happened via a knife versus a gun?  A person who uses a knife versus a gun is still using a dangerous instrument.  Is an emotional reaction leading to murder using a knife versus a gun a more acceptable murder?  I hope not.

I'm interested in seeing what punishment will be afforded the teenager who killed the other teen in the nice community of Fishers.  Somehow I sense he will get less than 10 years in jail for the crime. I can hear the attorney's plea that this young man from a "good family environment" has a life that can be salvaged and that one mistake should not be forever held against him.

The contrast in how violence is covered in black communities versus white communities still stands out in my mind.  Do news producers want to portray murder in a white community as being a mistake or an aberration ?  Do news produces want to show a murder in a black community as being typical of our environments?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Pursuing the Writing Career - Screenplay Representationin

A writer writes!

Having written several scripts in the past year, I am now into the phase of attempting to get those finished products out to agents and anyone with connections in the film industry.  This is a difficult step when you are starting from having no contacts and do not live in the geographic area of agents and the film industry.

I have begun by trying to find agents who will accept query letters.  The query letter is where you briefly introduce the material(s) you are seeking representation for.  In my case, it is the last 3 scripts I have written.  A comedy, "Introvert/Extrovert";  a drama,  "Cousin J"; and an animated cartoon "That Special Holiday".

All three of the efforts feature African American characters.  I understand that the public will not see movies featuring African Americans, unless African Americans write them.  Most of my experiences are based on being an African American male.  So that is the foundation I write from.

In the past I have obtained the services of an agent who has long retired.  That was in the late 1990's.  So, I know I have some talent to write if an agent liked my materials back then.  I believe my life experiences has improved my writing.  The best thing about writing is you either have the talent to write or you don't.  I don't judge my success as a writer based on my selling materials.  I first base my skills on whether I like what I have written.  Have I conveyed the story I wanted to tell?  Do I get emotion from the story?  When I watch movies a movie that makes me feel emotion is the litmus test.  The emotion I should not feel is the disgust in seeing that the movie is terrible either in it's concept or acting.

I don't expect instantaneous success in my efforts to find an agent.  Whether I find one or not, I will continue to write the stories that I want to tell.  Having the time, freedom, and resources to write is already a gift for me.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Comcast Ineffective Customer Service

A writer writes!

Friday evening I spent approximately one hour on the Comcast customer service chat line getting service for what should have taken 5 minutes.  I was basically attempting to upgrade my service.  It took four customer service representatives to address my question and to finally process the transaction to upgrade my cable TV service.

I copied the content of my chat with the representatives into a Word document.  The total number of pages came to 4 pages of dialog covering the one hour of "chat".  By the names of the customer representatives, it appears the customer services have been contracted out to workers outside the United States.  That is okay, if the services were excellent.  But, it became apparent that each representative was following a script and had been trained foremost to sale extra services to customers.  I had to repeatedly get very direct with each representative to keep them focused on what I, the customer wanted, rather than what Comcast wanted me to purchase.

After an initial phone call to a live human being from another country I terminated the conversation when the person kept trying to  push new products onto me.  Then began my 1 hour odyssey into Comcast chat land.  It was a very unfriendly customer service experience.

American companies seem more focused on mergers rather than ensuring the best customer service is provided.  Cable TV companies have notoriously been known for bad service.  My experience is my vote to confirm the truthfulness of that statement.

One thing I did do is be persistent in getting what I wanted done.  I also stayed professional and courteous in my chat comments and questions.  Unfortunately it took over an hour to get the customer service rep to do what I wanted done.  I have had several poor customer service connections in the past month.  For some reason people do not fully understand the importance of good customer service.  It costs one company my account which they had until they merged with a new company.  Maybe once these companies suffer economically from a loss of customers they will then understand the importance of giving the customer what the customer wants.

Monday, June 16, 2014

NBA Championship - Our Entertainment Distraction from the Serious Parts of Life

A writer writes!

Last night, thankfully the schooling of the Miami Heat by the San Antonio Spurs on how to properly and effectively play team basketball came to an end.  The Spurs put on a basketball clinic in the last 3 games to win the NBA Championship for the 5th time in the franchises history.

There was the usual glee and celebration from the victors.  Of course there were the gracious comments and protective/defensive comments of the Miami players.  Since the Heat, specifically Lebron James, spoke of the team winning more than 5 championships together when he and Bosh joined the Heat, the loss will be raised up in the sky by those who are not fans of James as an indicator of his failure.

But, I don't think Lebron James has failed as a basketball player.  Four times to the finals in the past 4 years is an accomplishment that few can match.  I am focused on Lebron for another reason.  As I've heard James speak over the years, I was eager to hear him say something that expressed a thanks to God for his basketball playing skills and all he has gained from those skills.  Maybe I missed those comments.  In a material world where the focus often is on "me, me, me", it is always refreshing to hear a sports "star" openly and honestly express his thanks to God for the skills and the success the player has had using those skills.  Those are humbling moments.

I do recall Kevin Durrant of the OKC team expressing thanks to God for Kevin's past accomplishments.  I'm sure Lebron and Kevin have different viewpoints about life and were both raised in different ways by their mother.  Many people, kids and adults admire and follow Lebron James.  I wonder if he and his family has a religious life built around a belief in God?  If you've heard Lebron thank God for anything, send me a note/comment.

Yes, sports is entertainment.  But, it is also a job for those who are professionals in the sport.  Making God a part of your life, including your job is not a bad thing.  I wonder if those who follow Lebron James spend more time following his every day life than spending time in daily prayer?  If so, what do they get out of following the exploits of a basketball player?  Can't you get more out of following God and the principles he wants us to live under?

I do enjoy the distraction of basketball from the serious side of life.  It still is a game.  I may also get caught up in talking about it too much, but it beats talking about murders and shootings which I hear about daily on the morning and evening news.  I have to calm myself to not get so excited about the game that I forget that it really is just a game to be enjoyed.

I give thanks to God for the entertaining options he has allowed us to have in life.  I also seek his help in ensuring that I never place a game over Him.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

An African American Man's Reflections on Father's Day

A writer writes!

Tomorrow is the American tradition of Father's Day.  Thinking historically I wonder how an African American man's father's day would be if Black men came to this country willingly instead of in chains in slavery?  How would a Black man's Father's day be if we had not been seen as property and not placed into the American institution of slavery?  What if we had been freely allowed to raise a family instead of having wives and children taken away by the evilness of slavery and those who practiced the cruelties of being a slave owner?  What if we were just seen as people with a darker hue of skin color?

I wonder if the descendants of slave owners pause on Father's day to think of the African American women whom were raped and used as sexual tools by their great-great-great grandfather and other descendants?  I wonder if that part of their family history is ever discussed openly?  I wonder if Caucasian men who today see light complexioned African American women really understand how these light skinned Black women came to be when African Americans long ago had dark skin?

How would today's African American man's Father's day be if their own father had been able to fully explore the gifts God gave them instead of being held back by prejudice, racism, and hatred?  Would there be as many African American families without a father present in the house?  Would there be as much Black on Black violence news if originally African American families had been able to establish a semblance of normality instead of being thrust into American slavery?

Well, the past can't be changed.  But, those who point fingers at situations where strong African American fathers are not in households, need to ask themselves if any descendant in their family was once an owner of slaves.  Did someone in your family lose control of themselves and use an African American slave to fulfill their sexual desires?  Did someone in your family help to ensure an African American family never had a chance to establish a firm family foundation?

Overcoming the past can take many years.  But, I am convinced that the evil of others that begun some 400 years ago can be overcome.  Then one day the descendants of the slave whose family was torn apart will live in a stable environment.  They will be free to pursue life using their God given gifts.  They will be able to achieve all that their descendants were not allowed to achieve.  Dreams broken centuries ago will be fulfilled.

Then more African American males will have a joyous, reflective Father's day.  Those fathers will be surrounded by their children and grandchildren.  Although moving on is necessary, we still need to reflect on the trials that were overcome by those who came before us.  We need to remember.  Just as those whose ancestors disrupted so many families need to be humbled with information that their family history is not as pure as they would think.

African American men everywhere....have a Happy Father's Day.  If not already begun, start the journey of healing within your own family.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Internet: A Gift from God?

A writer writes!

Sometime during the past year I saw a quote that the internet was a gift from God.  Of course being human I thought of some of the misuses of the internet over the years.  Pornography, hacking of computers, and criminal uses of the technology.  But recently, I started to understand more how the internet can be used for positive actions and to reach instantaneously out to someone who could benefit at that moment from a positive word.  In that respect the ability to spread good tidings and the positive messages of our Creator does make the internet another in a continuous line of gifts from God.

Today it is hard to imagine a time when communication with someone thousands of miles away took days or weeks.  Well, that is exactly how long people had to wait when delivery of paper mail was the main vehicle of communication.  Over the years we've progressed to electronic communication via morse code, telegrams, telephone, text messages and now through various social medias on the internet.  Each form of communication reduced the time it took to communicate with each other.  The advances in communication also allowed people from other countries to reach out to each other.  Communication time frames have been drastically reduced.

Maybe these progressive communication methods are all part of God's plan to help us become closer as human beings.  The borders and fences we've built around ourselves are easier to penetrate in the internet age.  We open ourselves up to others more in the age of instantaneous communication.  We share more and give each other the ability to learn more from each other.

We can also share information on our religious beliefs, bringing better understanding that all of our faiths are truly related.  We can spread the doctrine and principles that our Creator wants us to live by.  We can spread hope, love for each other, and a desire to rid our world of the misunderstandings that we have about each other.  The internet provides a great opportunity for us to learn.  It provides a great opportunity for us to grow.  We must strive to use the availability of the technology to move us forward not backwards or sideways.

In that respect the internet is a gift from God.  When we use it, think in those terms.  Use it for positive results.  Use it to bridge gaps, not to attach each other.  Use it to help others.  There is another progressive step coming beyond the internet.  While we wait for that gift, let's use the one we have to benefit each other and to bring us closer.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Reflections on a 35 Year Career - My Final Internship

A writer writes!

I began my final internship in May of 1979.  I recall that my spring quarter in college had been a tough one.  I was working odd jobs to make money.  Cleaning out gutters, sweeping up stadiums after concerts, sealing envelopes, and delivering magazines to stores, were some of the odd jobs I did to have on hand cash for entertainment and gas for my car.  I recall having at least one Political Science class that I felt was irrelevant and out of touch.  I was phasing out my involvement in school activities and focusing on graduating and beginning my adult career.

When I returned for my final internship, I found a vacant apartment in the complex where I originally had begun my internship.  I was again only a block away from work.  I was assigned to an area that was responsible for doing self evaluations of the HR services done by our office.  During that stint my supervisor rated me as someone she thought would not make it as a Federal employee.  I saw her years later after I had received several outstanding awards and had won the honor of being employee of the month and year in the administrative category.  I always wondered how she felt seeing me successful years later after her self declaration that I would never amount to much.

I took my work more seriously during this internship.  I knew that this was the place that would offer me a permanent job after I graduated from college.  I still wore clothes that weren't really meant for the office, but I was beginning to understand that I would need to dress more conservatively in the future.  I also began to further see that Black males were still a premium in HR at my office and that there didn't seem to be any real desire to hire Black males into HR.
I still stayed to myself a lot during that internship.  I recall talking more to people, but generally I kept relationships at a business level.  I had more confidence in myself as the internship ended.  I knew that when my internship ended I wanted to return after I graduated.  But, nowhere in my mind did I believe I would spend the next 33 of my 35 years in HR back in the same building where I began my internship.

The Internet As a Bridge to Cross the World

A writer writes!

One benefit I have found in using the internet, is that some websites allow for communication with people whom you otherwise would not have met.  Through one website, I have communicated with people from the countries of Australia, Canada, Spain, Sweden, United Emirates, and the United Kingdom.  These connections have been to write comedy material for customers in those countries.

I have personally not visited any of these countries yet.  It is my goal to travel around the world and see other cultures in person.  But, until then, my fingers and the internet allows me to touch other parts of the world.

My comedy writing contacts has shown me that laughter has no boundaries.  People all over the world want to laugh.  That is a common link that we have as inhabitants of this world.  We don't speak the same language, but we do share a trait where humor is  a part of all of our lives.

The internet allows us to visually see people we otherwise would not see or talk to.  It also provides the potential for us as humans to gather information without it being filtered by others.  Direct communication to a person provides individuals with the ability to learn on their own without someone interpreting information for us.

We have only touched the surface of the use of the internet for direct communication with others across the world.  As technology and trust in people to use the technology increases, our ability to communicate throughout the world will be improved.  It is ultimately up to us to use this communication tool properly and ensure it is used to bring us closer together.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Reflections on a 35 Year Career - The 4th internship tour

A writer writes.

My fourth stint as an intern began after Thanksgiving in 1978.  I was now placed in Management Employee Relations Division.  It was an area where disciplinary actions were initiated against employees and where the labor relations function existed.  My apartment was no longer a block away.  I could not find a vacancy where I lived that summer and my counter part who had continued my lease no longer attended Evansville.  So, I found an efficiency near the middle of the city.  By that time I had my parents car full time so I drove to work every day.  I was now more mobile and recall venturing to the mall and downtown for entertainment.

I don't recall a lot about the work that I did during that stint.  I do recall having to purchase a new battery for my car when during winter weather it would not start.  I still had very few friends that I associated with during my internship.  I do recall driving my future wife back to school after New Years and returning to Indianapolis with a friend of hers from Evansville in a winter storm at night.  The drive was hazardous and we both prayed until we were safely back in the city.

Ironically the brother of my wife's friend is one of the married couples in a church marriage ministry my wife and I are part of.  My former wife's friend died of breast cancer several years ago.  I did not know her brother was related to her until he started talking about his deceased sister.  It turned out that my current wife also knew his sister in high school.  It is amazing how connections occur in life.

But, I digress.  That fourth internship stint ended without any lasting memories.  I returned to campus to finish out the last quarter.  I was soon to begin my last internship in the summer of 1979.

Monday, June 2, 2014

When Company Mergers Go Wrong

A writer writes!

Recently a local pest control company I use, Circle City Pest Control, merged with a larger company called Action Pest Control.  Action sent a form letter to all the Circle City customers stating that customer satisfaction was their central focus.  The letter said all the nice words but follow up actions by Action Pest Control have failed to deliver the promised level of services.  Despite repeated phone calls and emails I have not been able to obtain the routine monthly service I had established with Circle City Pest Control.

Today I left an email message with Action Pest Control that said absent someone routinely contacting me to establish monthly appointments, I would end my association with the now merged Action Pest Control.  The form letter Action sent out also allowed new customers to contact the Branch Manager if problems arose.  I attempted to do so in the past with the same non responsive results.

Mergers should not result in a decrease in quality of services.  In this case that is what happened.  Action has turned a satisfied customer into a dissatisfied customer soon to be seeking a new vendor.  My second option is to move into a do it yourself mode.  Now I wonder if that is why many people have resorted to a do-it-yourself mode in addressing issues dealing with their home.  The reason being that they can't get the quality services they desire.  If that is the case, if they can safely and competently do the job themselves why not do their own work?  The alternative is to be frustrated by a company not responding to them, or providing shoddy services.

This merger of companies was done on a small scale.  I can only imagine what goes wrong when large companies merge with other large companies.