Thursday, September 03, 2015

Dead Children - Something's Wrong.

I'm not sure where to start with this.

I've written about it before, nearly two years ago and ten tears ago. It unleashes frightening emotions.

The image and headline flashed before me in my Facebook feed, posted by an old cycling friend. I tried to ignore it, simply for fear of what I'd feel. My fears were realized. It's right there, I'm sorry, they can not be unseen, but you've probably seen them already.

I wept (I was not alone).

The dead children, washed up in the shore at a Turkish resort, called to me. Their eternally frozen faces struck at me deeply - as a father of two beautiful boys.

What was it?

My inaction in the face of this travesty? The circumstances that drove their parents' desperate attempt to flee in search of a better life? What of the uncounted thousands of children expiring among us, in our world of plenty? What of the children abused right here in my adopted state?

All this feeling only when I drop my guard and let the horror of what's happening creep into my consciousness amid the blah, blah, blah of daily life. I imagine these children barely afloat, clutching with all their tiny might to anything to keep them breathing and alive. Can I even contemplate for a moment that feeling? Then, the last hopeless gasp before all passes into darkness - NO!

My God! The blessings that my children are! The blessing of my family, of the fact that I was born where I was born.

Can anyone gaze on these images and not be moved?

What is our moral responsibility as a member of this global community to act? This is simply not right.

I pray, this godless man prays.

Now, I look for ways to do something - this will not be easy.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Vacation Reflections - Sustainable Tourism?

Well, it happened. We went on a vacation - with members of our extended family. It was long overdue, something that had been talked about for at least a decade. We collectively deferred, as we could not find a common "good time". Well, time marches on, and depending on your point of view, there may never be a "good time". Someone put a line in and the sand and said, "we're going here at this time, who can join us?" We just decided to go, and received gifts to help make it happen, which we were/are incredibly thankful for.

Now, the catch, we went to a resort in the Caribbean. Ack, a manufactured vacation experience carved out of a beautiful place, with all sorts of negative environmental attributes. Despite these assumptions and misgivings about visiting such a place, it was quite nice (once I shut off my cultural/sustainability critic - which one might argue one should not do) and enjoyed the time away with members of our extended family.

Note on parenting: in general, my parental anxiety setting is probably at a 7 on a scale of 1-10, so the thought of traveling with our kids didn't help. Who knows what could happen (I envisioned the worst). Here's where my brain goes - when the flight attendant started reviewing the safety information, and then stopped by with an infant life vest (since we were traveling with a little one), I envisioned the scenario of a water landing. It was terrifying. My mind dramatized a cross between the movie Titanic and Jaws - with a poor outcome. I had to shake my head to change my frame of mind. The good news, nothing bad happened. The kids were great travelers, they did not get sick, and the oldest will (hopefully) fondly remember the time playing with his cousins for a long time to come. So, I think I've successfully knocked my parental anxiety setting down a few notches to a 4 or so.

Back to the whole "vacation resort/sustainability thing".

More on that word resort. I could not help but envision an artificially carved out piece of western culture extracting resources from the local economy through cheap labor - feeding the heaving, sweating, sun-roasted masses gathered there for a respite from wherever they came from. Of course, big-bad investors/owners were from elsewhere, benefiting from the resource extraction - but is that true? Kind of, I guess, but I haven't studied it.

In the first few days there I marveled at the scale of the operation. Arriving at a warm place like this is a bit jarring after about 12 hours of travel with children starting at 3:45 AM in Burlington, VT. I'd never been to a resort before (never mind the terrible one I visited with college friends in Cancun for spring break in 1993ish) and could not help but be surprised by the packaging of the experience. Music followed you along the covered walkways connecting the facilities, piped in through speakers disguised as rocks. I felt a bit like I was in a vacation mall, complete with an extra deluxe food court that you had to make reservations for and an enormous buffet that teemed with people 3x/day. I tried not to notice the plates heaped with food.

A small army of staff made this all possible. There were machete-wielding men hacking at shrubs in the early morning light and the like to keep them in order, innumerable women mopping floors multiple times/day, and countless attendants in the buffet to clear tables and guide exhausted families to their nourishment. Yet, I wondered, how did the resort's jobs affect the local economy and the people? Was this a boon for them? What percentage of the workforce worked there? Did it contribute to their economic well-being in ways that I discounted? Do the benefits outweigh the costs? Assuming that natural resources are undervalued as they typically are in our investment calculus with ecological negatives treated as externalities, I'd have to guess that the benefits do not outweigh the costs.

What about the resource and energy flows to make this all possible? I envisioned the mass flow rate of inputs and outputs with the system boundaries of the resort. Bottled water by the thousands/day. Tons of food. Was laundry done on site or subbed out? How did they treat the pools? Where did the power come from? Oh, and don't forget the energy and associated emissions from the thousands of guests that make it there over the course of the year. Judging from the languages in the communications collateral, the resort owners targeted the US, Russia, France, (and I'm missing a few). But wait! They're Green Globe Certified - oh, that makes it all OK.

Despite my reservations, mostly that voice in my head saying "you're here and therefore contributing to the systemic problems", I'm glad we made the trip - to visit with family and enjoy their company, and knock my parental anxiety scale down a few notches.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

K-Cups, Nukes, AI, and...Parenting?

Yep. Parenting. It'll make sense (hopefully) in a few minutes

I posted something about K-cups and sustainability on my Facebook feed a few days ago and it sparked a lively conversation about the work Keurig/Green Mountain is doing to make the K-cups recyclable. There have been a few fairly well distributed pieces on the K-cup lately, and I felt the urge to share thoughts about whether we're moving to a place in product development ideation/creation where end-of-life disposition is tackled up front, not after the fact. These comments got me thinking about writing a blog post, which I have not done in...well...a while. Then I see the cover of the latest Economist with a feature on nuclear weapons, and I recalled a recent piece about where the bar is set for war between the USA and Russia. Well, ideas began percolating about how nuclear weapons and K-cups might be connected by some deeply seated economic/philosophical/cultural belief system, and I'd write something about it. Heck, maybe I'd bring AI into the fray, since I fried my brain on that last weekend


The reality is that the idea occurred to me sometime this morning after my 2nd cup of coffee and before my first bout of threenager negotiating and before I was even left alone for the afternoon with both kids. Oh wait! There's the magazine opened to the article just as I left it ~10 hours ago, I can still go read it and formulate a mind-blowing piece that connects it all. Umm. Not so much.

I'm tired and my brain is mush.

Now that the youngest has hit the 6-month mark, I'm a bit less anxious about every little cough and sneeze signifying an impending life-threatening disease. Wait! What?! He sneezed. Is his head still attached? OK. It is. Whew. Dodged that one! That said, the afternoon was spent wiping drool and maneuvering small child whilst keeping the oldest occupied and entertained. Yep. I resorted to some screen time - hopefully lower than what's recommended.

As I relax a bit more (there's a long way to go) I'm starting to accept at a deeper level my role as a father. "Why tam I checking my mobile device when I'm off today for child care!?" When I'm 90, will I look back and say, "what was I thinking?" or "I'm glad I made the most of my time with my kids", even when they're both crying and one just pooped through their outfit for the 2nd time.

So, K-cups, nukes, and AI can wait, I had kids to play with, and I'm tired.

Sunday, February 08, 2015


Erratically falling,
darting through icy air
landing imperceptibly, piling
up, up, up.
Even tempered - whitening
anything and everything
until, cascading
down, down, down
onto whatever lies below.

As the snow cover all but
the warmest things,
so does the stifling
blanket of darkness
that arrives in waves
Minutes, days, hours
lost in blank uncertainty.

Yet, the light returns.
twilight's gaze lingers
in the western sky
hugging old mountains.
Disappearing into the distance.
forever rolling away
with their promise
of longer days.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Parenting Notes to Myself

I'm new at this.

Parenting that is.

What has it been, 3.5 years or something? There was a user's manual, right? Oh yeah, there was that "new parents" class we took a few months before the first baby arrived - and I read some things - probably not enough - about what to expect. What stuck with me the most was the variety in terms of color and consistency of infant poop. I took infant & toddler CPR too - which of course terrified me. Before there was a feeling of competence, another child arrived.  Sure. this is how it's done, right?

I recall thinking that there was a certain amount of inter-generational hazing going on, that certain things that our parents and grandparents experienced (the real tough stuff) just went without saying. There were platitudes like, "oh, you'll figure it out" and such - which was true. Maybe, just maybe, if the real truth about being a parent were known, no one would do it. OK, well, maybe not no one, but fewer. What would that mean? Who knows?

I've realized recently that, most of my parenting activities have been underscored with a sense of anxiety and self-doubt. What does that mean? I suppose it means that I constantly self-talk about the "what if...?" scenarios of what we're doing, and whether I'm doing it wrong. What if he gets sick when we visit the play space? What if I'm somehow giving him a complex because I'm doing potty training "wrong"? What if he pukes in the bed again? What if I'm not making enough money to get them the education they deserve (and need?).

What if I cut myself some slack? As a matter of fact, I'm doing OK with the potty training - at least I can clean up poop pretty well - and if it gets on me, I don't freak out. Oh yeah, and I'm not alone in this whole parenting thing, I have a partner. Maybe I would be well-served by sharing these feelings?

I'm realizing that all the worrying and hand-wringing is counter-productive. It undermines my confidence as a parent because I am pretty much figuring it out as I go along - and I can. Most importantly, my ability to be present with my children is severely hampered. If I'm pre-occupied with internally evaluating and criticizing my parenting activities and worrying about it, how am I "there"?

So, when my son asks, "Daddy, will you come play with me?", the answer can simply be, "yes".

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Saving the World from Mediocre Coffee?

People like coffee.  I like coffee.  Good coffee is sublime.  Bad coffee is, well, terrible.  What is mediocre coffee like, and what is saving the world from it like?  I decided to find out.

I listened to a podcast a few weeks ago.  No big deal, right?  It was entitled "Saving the World from Mediocre Coffee" from the London Business School.   The immediate conclusion I drew is that there is no shortage of smart, energetic, and driven people that unite around a problem and solve it.  The reverence with which the participants talked about their "Project Marlow", a global project to automate the cafe experience in the UK and abroad could be admirable...but...I did not feel that way.  Something about it stuck with me, something at its core that I found lacking and/or completely disconnected from "the world".

I felt like the whole thing was misdirected.  Do we really need to save the world from mediocre coffee?  I know I enjoy a good cup daily, and, despite efforts to buy fairtrade/organic/direct trade, there's no doubt I'm impacting the planet with my coffee habit.  Though, I still thought, really?

As I pondered, I determined that what bothered me was the use of the phrase, "saving the world", which, this team is NOT doing.  The proper term might be "saving the target consumer from a mediocre cup of coffee" (though, from a catch-phrase perspective it does not ring out well), and it just so happens that there are hundreds of thousands if not millions of these targets - but please, not the world.  After all, this is a business, and businesses thrive on offering valuable solutions customers want to meet those customers' needs, right?  I suppose they could be saving the world from a mediocre cup of coffee, if they were integrating environmental and social metrics into their project, but I do not recall hearing any of that.

Words are important, and when an organization tosses around "saving/changing the world/planet" what does it really mean?  As a society, what might we decide is truly important to save the world from?  Famine? War? Climate Change? Disease?  Is it up to us to call bulls___ when phrases like this are thrown about?

So, who really is saving the world?  Anyone?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

What's Working for a BCorp Like?

I started thinking about this a few days ago.  I felt as though I was having a particularly bad day, things weren't going as I'd hoped, road blocks appeared where they were not expected, I was working remotely and feeling disconnected which can easily lead to all kinds of downward-spiraling thoughts.  I paused...and thought about what I was doing and how I was thinking...and then re-framed my internal conversation - "wait", I thought, "I'm working in the renewable energy industry (solar to be exact), in a state with a progressive energy policy (Vermont), in a new job that I found by seeking out an organization that aligned with my vision for what businesses can be, AND it's a Certified BCorp!  How cool is that!"

Working at a BCorp is a lot like working at any other company, you have good days and bad days, days you feel energized and ready to take on the world and days that you'd rather never started.  You have positive and negative interactions with colleagues.  You have challenges and stress and happiness and sadness and everything in between.  But for me, when I paused and thought deeply about what I was obsessing about, what roadblocks had been thrown in my way, I realized that I was part of an organization with a mission I believed in and a structure that seeks to do the right thing in relation to governance, employees, the community, and the environment.  I really could sleep at night knowing that the work I did supported, in a tangible way, making good things happen in the world.

When I look at things that way, whatever obstacles and challenges that rear up seem to fade away rather quickly.

So, thank you Suncommon, for being a certified BCorp.

More to come...

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

22 Lessons from Both Sides of the Hiring Fence

Where are you going?
This could be a long one, so buckle up.

I recently made a career change.   While deep in my own out-of-state exploration phase, I was the hiring manager filling new positions with the company I would eventually leave.  Yes, it felt strange, downright odd, in fact.  Navigating these two competing commitments put me in a unique position to learn about career searching and the hiring process.  In no particular order, here are the things I learned in my concurrent roles as recruiter and candidate (Image from
  1. Get OK with yourself - Yep. This could be a doozy - or not.  If you have work to do cleaning up emotional baggage or other mental health challenges - get to it.  The longer you wait the harder it is - and the energy you're dedicating to coping/dealing reduces the energy available to be an authentic participant in your relationships, which deeply affects career exploration. 
  2. Be diligent and unwavering in your vision - When you've arrived at what it is you want, whether it's a specific job, a career move to another industry, or relocating - stick to it.  IF you've been honest and forthright with yourself as you honed in on this vision - your "Why?" - you'll only compromise your long-term happiness by compromising your vision.
  3. Use Pros/Experts - If you can't bear the thought of re-writing your resume, or cover letter writing only sparks anxiety, you might be better off paying to have them done for you, especially if the last time you updated your resume was 10+ years ago.  Shop around.  Ask friends.  Chances are there's a marketing freelancer within your network that can help.
  4. Ask for help - and listen - Who do you know that reflects your opinions back to you honestly - someone you will actually listen to?  What insights do you need about yourself and your capabilities to inform your career exploration?  Maybe a career counselor is the way to go.  Maybe just a close friend that has seem you through personal and professional life phases.  Either way, be sure to truly listen to what they're telling you.
  5. Write a (good) cover letter - I was blown away when I'd receive resumes that were not closely matched to the job description with no letter to explain how they would fit the role.  Why, exactly, are you applying?  Oh. I see. You're wasting everyone's time.  Now, if your cover letter is generic and does not illustrate why you're a great candidate for this job, it's almost as bad as not writing one.
  6. Be brief & concise - This applies to cover letter writing, networking, and other forms of career seeking correspondence.  A hiring manager could be inundated with applicants - a verbose cover letter may never be looked at. A busy professional you've been connected to may skip over a 4 paragraph introductory email and forever lose it below the fold.  Be clear and get to the point...nicely.
  7. Be punctual - Really?  I have to include this?  Yep...because I had a tardy candidate blame traffic.  Look, if traffic is unpredictable in your area then leave ample time and park yourself at a local coffee shop.  The consensus of my peers is that this may not be enough to disqualify you, BUT, as a tiebreaker, you lose.
  8. Follow up - This is important for networking, interviewing, and generally being a nice person (see #12)  Nothing says "I truly appreciate your help" more than actually saying that to the person that helped you in an informational interview.  If you're interviewing for a sales job and you don't ask for the contact info of your interviewer for follow up - you've effectively lowered your odds of winning the job (sale).
  9. Do your homework - 15-30 minutes on the web is probably enough time, though it depends upon how committed you are to a company.  If your goal is to work for a BCorp, then you might want to study up on the history of the movement, along with what the company does.  Jeez, at least read some recent press releases (if they exist).
  10. PROOFREAD! - And have someone else do it too, if you have that access.
  11. Network - Think about what you can offer the people you meet, not just about what you would like to find out.  This was reinforced for me by Markey Read of Career Networks, Inc. Develop your 30-second personal elevator pitch and refine it along the way.  Be sure it's not too vague, people are generally willing to help, they just need you to tell them how they can help.  Too vague a request leaves them unsure of to whom they can connect you, which means you won't get connected.  If you meet someone interesting, stay connected, nurture the relationship, send them occasional notes about things they might find interesting, invite them out for coffee.  Etc.
  12. Dress appropriately - This can be a real challenge if you cannot get a gauge of the organization's culture and typical mode of covering oneself with clothing.  Wearing Casual Friday attire to a law firm could be just as bad as wearing a suit to a organic gardening start-up.  It could illustrate that you might struggle to fit in.  If you have the chance to ask about the office dress through networking, do it.
  13. Practice gratitude -  It not only makes you a happier person, it also reinforces the fact that you care and appreciate the person's help/career opportunity.  Take the time to send a handwritten thank you note to the people that help you along the way.  You're demonstrating your gratitude, and potentially standing out from a sea of applicants.
  14. Include your contact info - repeatedly - A cover letter with no name, address, email, phone number? Really?  Yes.  It happened.  Make it easy to find you, name the files you're submitting online with your name and the position (think about how the recipients will be organizing and searching for electronic documents).  Make sure your name, email, and phone are included on every page you submit.  Make it easy to find and contact you.
  15. Join Professional groups - Looking to make a career change/industry change?  Look for professional organizations in your new industry and join them.  Get active online or in person, ask questions.  Tell people your story and share your goals - you'll find the help you need.
  16. Engage in and with social media - OK, depending upon your generation, privacy concerns and the like, this might be tough.  Though, if you're seeking to work in marketing for a consumer products company, you should probably be up to speed on Facebook, twitter, Instagram, and the like.  Follow the organizations you're interested and engage with their content, you'll get a feel for their culture and you never know how this could help.  Oh! And make sure your profiles are up to date and neat.  You may also want to look through your taggings on Facebook to clean up and transgressions that you'd prefer others not see.
  17. Manage expectations - Get a clear view of your transition timing.  Expectations for the time period to give when you give notice vary, typically ~2 weeks for most employees and ~4-6 weeks for managers, maybe far longer in academia and executive levels.  While you may be eager to start your new adventure, be clear with your prospective employer about expectations and time lines for a transition to maintain your professional reputation.
  18. Update your resume/career accomplishments as you go - Few things can be as daunting as updating/recreating your resume/CV after many years of neglect.  So, as with other professional activities, update it as you go.  Take the time to reflect on your last role and record the what's and hows for your resume as well as more detailed information in another document to draw upon for future interviews and career exploration.  If you maintained a good relationship with a former employer, follow up with someone after they've filled your position and see how it's progressed - it's possible that you laid the groundwork for a project that achieved its full potential.  
  19. Think about your career narrative - The term "climbing the corporate ladder" is less applicable today than ever.  Look at your next career/job choice as a chapter of the career novel (or eBook) you're writing.  How does it mesh with what you've done in the past?  How does it build on your experiences?  How does it reflect your ambitions and who you want to be in the world?
  20. Coordinate social media posts with your partner -  In this day and age of interconnections, make sure that you and anyone else that may need to navigate a career transition is aware of and approves of social media sharing.  You never know who might be connected to whom and spill the beans in a most inopportune way.
  21. Be honest and nice in an exit interview - There's not much in it for you to launch into a flaming excoriation of a manager or (soon to be) former coworker upon exiting.  Of course, situations vary and depending upon the organization, you may feel compelled to offer feedback to help them improve, do so honestly and judiciously.
  22. Try something different -I do not have direct experience with this, but I've read about the guy that rented a billboard in London to land a job.  Depending upon your situation, resources, and industry, something like this could be the right thing to do.
So, to all the HR professionals out there, what did I miss?  For hiring managers and career changers, what have you experienced?  I'm curious.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

When an Idea Gives You Goosebumps

Yes.  It happened.  Last summer. I had a phone conversation about an idea and I got goosebumps.  If I can't pay attention to that visceral reaction as a sign of resonance with my ideals, visions, and dreams, what can I pay attention to?

The part that's interesting to me, as I reflect on the moment months later, is the fact that it's an idea I had about four years ago and abandoned.  Oh, it popped up a few times, in conversations with people about what I was trying to do, a few fits and starts with a co-developer and such, but - yeah - I gave up on it.


Oh, there are plenty of reasons - having a child, letting the internal critic squash it, no clue how to execute, fear of failure, trying to figure it out myself, the economy, the temperature, star misalignment...

Am I happy that someone's doing something with it?  I am.

What did I learn?

Actions speak louder than words - ideas are not owned - and, the Universe might bring something back to you whether you like it or not.

In this year of letting things go, what's getting in the way of letting my passion shine through - to be present in and with these moments?

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

The Year of Letting It Go

Yeah. A jacket like this.
I finally did it.

I took my father's 25-ish year old leather biker jacket to a nearby second-hand retail/swap establishment - and got rid of it.

Unceremoniously stuffed into the back of a closet, pushed back amid the items that should probably no longer be with us - it was out of sight and not quite out of mind.  What the heck was I doing with it?  And, as I contemplated a 2014 in which I planned to let things both emotional and material go - where did this belong?

Not with me anymore.

I was carting it around without a clue as to what to do with it and what purpose it served.  Did having it with me provide some shred of his presence? Humbug. He passed away 22 years ago - his jacket was just a jacket. Was I going to do something with it as a memorial?  Probably not.  (I had a quick idea about adding a permanent QR-code to it with some sort of online photo-log where people would post photos of themselves during far-flung adventures wearing the jacket - think of it like wearable garden gnome.  Yeah...I never did anything with that.)

So, there I was, at Buffalo Exchange in Davis Square, talking to the super-hip and fully-vintaged clerk about the fact that this was a real biker jacket worn by a real biker.  I mean, this thing is legit (I think he wore it on his trip to Sturgis, SD in the late 80's).  She commented on the coolness of the button holes in the leather and the broken zipper - sure signs of use.  Off she went for a consultation on the value - like Antiques Roadshow - and came back to fill me in.  Interesting.  I let it go...

Is it odd that an urban hipster could be striding around Boston/Cambridge/Somerville in my deceased father's jacket?  Maybe.  It's hard to imagine an area more different than where my father lived and felt at ease. In fact, I'd bet he would strongly dislike the hipster set - but then again, he'd be happy that I ended up with a few bucks in my pocket for an old leather-bound keepsake - and that someone used it.

It's an object - nothing more - the memories remain.