totally random

cat bounce + a tee shirt.

Cat bounce… it’s the new angry birds but without the anger, challenge, or competition. Just mindless cat bouncing for those stressful days that end glossy-eyed at the computer.

… and if I wore shirts like this, I’d be rockin’ this one until Nov. 7.

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life lately

soo…

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of obligation and exhaustion. Entering my fourth week of uncompensated overtime coupled with a cough that won’t quit I just may be reaching my breaking point. Its time to win the lottery already. I’m lucky though that I haven’t fallen into full-blown sickness – just headaches, ear-aches, flem, and crippling congestion. It could have been way worse. Now if I can just get well enough to get my flu shot I can coast through winter.

As I’ve begun another hiring spree I am finding, once again, some answers to why there are so many unemployed people in the United States – – or, at least in Durham. A combination of bad education and underwhelming work ethic leave some employers with few choices. It’s never a good sign, for instance, when someone claims to be “etail oriented”. “Detail oriened” isn’t any better – – especially when the candidate didn’t bother to capitalize their own name. But perhaps I’m being nit-picky. It’s also not impressive when someone says the reason they want to work at your store is “cause it looks real easy”. A compliment for my team, perhaps, but not a compelling reason to hire someone new.

All that as it is, I’ve also found more qualified, nice people this go-round than last. More and more folks looking for second or third jobs because the ones they already have don’t pay enough to provide for their necessities. It’s sad too because the more complicated their availability, the harder it is to secure additional employment. I can say for myself that as much as I want to work with people it is hard enough to meet everyone’s wants and needs when they have open availability. I’m not interested in adding on additional complications. Yet when you come across a single father desperate for an additional job but bound by the bus and daycare schedules (plus his existing schedule at his other job) it is hard to say no.

The process of hiring, being extremely over worked, sick, and over-exhausted has left me rather emotional too. I’m ready for a  vacation… or a month off like the French do.

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social commentary

pumped up, beyond red bull wings

I wonder, did you see this article in the times?

I stumbled across it during a short break at work a couple weeks ago and was horrified. The prevalence of prescription stimulants across college campuses has been widely discussed in recent years. So has the trend towards over-diagnosing ADHD and other attention disorders. However, this is the first I’ve heard of willful mis-diagnosis as a kind of mediation for low income struggling children.

I can understand the physician’s perspective well enough. What else can the doctor do for these struggling kids besides prescribe medication? What position is the doctor in to help these children succeed academically beyond writing ‘scripts? Socially though we’re failing these children in our neglect and our cultural reliance on the notion of magic pills. Dr. Anderson, the so-called “social justice” doctor prescribing adderall to low income kids, cuts to the core of the issue: “We’ve decided as a society that it’s too expensive to modify the kid’s environment. So we have to modify the kid.” Yet I can’t help but think of George Bernard Shaw’s quip about not wasting time on social questions. “What is the matter with the poor”, he said, “is poverty; what is the matter with the rich is uselessness”.

Giving 11 year olds prescription stimulants when what they really need are good teachers, strong communities, and healthy home-lives does not solve the problem. Where are these children going to be 10 years down the line? Will they become addicted to adderall like the thousands of college kids who learned the hard way how dependent adderall made their minds? And what makes a parent embrace psychotropic medications yet shun giving their child coffee because it might stunt their growth?

The most obvious question, of course, is will the medications boost academic performance enough to initiate lasting positive change in the child’s life? Does getting an A in a poor inner-city school make a long lasting difference? Can it get that child into college? And, if it does, how will that child’s odds stack against a wealthy, successful student from a top school who now uses adderall or concerta recreationally to ensure a 4.0 GPA?

None of which is to say that giving the lower income, socially drowning children a medically-induced boost is out of line necessarily… maybe it is better than nothing even if it doesn’t bridge the gap that income disparity is wedging within our nation. Still, it just seems…. I guess pathetic that we’re resigning ourselves to that course of action.

I can’t honestly say that I was surprised by the finding. More so I was surprised to discover that my views on the matter may be naive and antiquated. As I’ve spoken with a couple of people on the matter, I’ve heard more complacency with medicated measures than I anticipated. The perspective seems to be that something is better than nothing and, more importantly, the risk of failing academically is greater than whatever health risks stimulants may pose for future adulthood.

There may be something to that line of though. What is the risk of academic failure for a young American today? What prospects does a high school drop out have for a future in the American workforce? What doors do college degrees really open? Even aside from high unemployment rates, it wouldn’t surprise me to find that it is becoming harder and harder to find a good job without a degree.

I’m interested to know what others think on this matter… and I wonder if more similar stories will begin popping up following Dr. Anderson’s confession.

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birthday party!

18 with 11 years experience

Happy Birthday to my husband who turned 29 yesterday!

Surprise delivery via UPS?

Uh-huh! 

(his mamma loves him)

Presents on the table?

Duh!

(a birthday isn’t a birthday without some presents on the table)

Birthday purr-fest?

Of course!

(our little lover cat wouldn’t have it any other way)

Birthday breakfast of eggs, sausage, and pancakes with cream cheese frosting?

Unquestionably!

(gluten free or not birthday pancakes will find a way)

Gadgets and geekery?

You bet’cha!

(this man is drawn to the technical)

 

A little silliness, a little drama?

Naturally!

(even at 89 this one’ll still be a goofball)

 

Mojitos?

Mos Def! 

(because that makes everything better)

 

 Birthday pot roast and veggies?

Oh Yes! 

(because his favorite meal is the one-pot-meal)

Successful mission on the part of the birthday angel?

Without fail!

(it was a good one, y’all)

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life lately

Global Leadership Conference 2012

At 5:07 am this last Wednesday I was making my way to 32,000 feet, headed south bound for Houston, Texas. The 2012 Starbucks Leadership Conference drew more than 10,000 of us into town for four days of service, learning, networking, team bonding, and corporate gospel.

For the most part the conference was a glorified pep-rally. Yet the planners did a great job of structuring learning and development into the agenda.  The lab, for instance, brought the industry of coffee to life in ways most of us had never experienced. Short of enjoying a trip to origin, the lab brought us closer to the process of growing, the process of blending and roasting, and the process of marketing than anything I can imagine. My knowledge of coffee and tea is relatively extensive – I didn’t advance to my position without it. But up to now my knowledge has largely been theoretical. I’ve read about coffee; I’ve heard stories about coffee; I’ve seen pictures of coffee. This was the first time I got to see rows upon rows of baby coffee trees or dip my hands into a barrel of unroasted coffee beans and take in their aroma. It was my first experience listening for the second pop of the beans as they roasted to perfection or seeing the components of a tea blend separated out, identified, and made available to touch and smell individually. It was cool.

We also got to learn about some of the new things Starbucks is doing – – new products, new partnerships, new strategies for growth. For anyone on the inside, the momentum and movement in the company is already known and felt. In fact, there are often so many things happening on a corporate level, and happening so fast, that we don’t even have advance knowledge. Customers come in with news and information that we haven’t even heard yet. Sometimes it’s work just to keep up-to-date.

On the whole the planners did a fantastic job of coordinating and prepping the logistics of the event. They put us all up in hotels around the city – – I stayed at one of the Marriott locations. They fed us very, very well and were prepared for all sorts of dietary concerns (vegetarian, vegan, even gluten free!). Not only were we served extensive meals three times a day, they set up elaborate snack and beverage bars around the convention center in-between meals with fresh and dried fruit, nuts, popcorn, chips, coffee, tea, water, sodas, refreshers, VIA… One could not starve! The last night was party night and they set up margarita bars, a food truck rodeo (which was really, really fun!), and multiple stages featuring live music from local bands. Transportation, however, proved troublesome and problematic. Because our hotels were scattered across the sprawling city many of us faced 45 minute to an hour commutes (and for anyone familiar with Houston traffic, it goes without saying that sometimes the commute doubled!). As a result, those in my situation had to be ready and boarding the bus by 6 am and couldn’t expect to be “home” until 9, 10, even 11 at night.

We  got an exclusive night at the ball park complete with karaoke, photo-booths, and a night of free-all-you-can-eat ball park food (which I have to say wasn’t my favorite dinner) and were welcomed heartily to Sambuca and the House of Blues.

And a Starbucks convention wouldn’t be complete without a coffee tasting… so we had three! Two in Toyota Center amongst 10,000 other partners and one in the lab from the new verismo machine.

In addition to everything else, each partner had at least 4 hours of community service scheduled during their stay. Collectively we helped build parks, refurbish houses, plant flowers, build and paint birdhouses and wildlife enclosures, assemble hygiene kits for the homeless, write and decorate holiday cards, paint artwork, facilitate a food shelter, and more.

Most of the speeches at the general assemblies were just ra-ra-company but there were a few speeches that were incredibly good and made up for the others we had to bear. Nancy Koehn, a Harvard professor and historian, gave a great speech on leadership through the story of Ernest Shackleton. Even though she has published this story and its message for leaders before, I was honored to hear her speak because she is so animated and funny and just fantastic. Reverend Calvin Butts III gave a sensational speech on what it means to lead in our world today and motivated the crowd to see ourselves as leaders in the world at large, not just in our stores. I was skeptical and quite surprised when he was introduced to the stage. A reverend? I thought. Why is a non-religious company bringing a baptist preacher from Harlem to the stage? Less than a minute in and I was completely overcome. Not only was he engaging and inspirational and funny, his prose was poetic and his message went far beyond anything corporate or coffee related. His speech was powerful, it was political, it was social, it was real. He was really amazing. And, of course, Howard Schultz gave a great speech about social commitment and responsibility. I will say this about the company I work for: I believe Howard Schultz is sincere, genuine, and has a good heart. You see it in his actions, you hear it in his speeches, you read it in his books, and when you talk to him you know. I have my doubts about a lot of the others, from all levels in fact. But at the very top of the pyramid there is an eye for good. {That being said, why he why revered like a rockstar and hounded like a celebrity throughout the entire weekend, I will never understand. What is the obsession with getting a photograph with him or an autograph? I don’t see the point.}

It was no surprise to me that there was a large percentage of the assemblage that was insincere and, well, comprised of jerks. Maya Angelou once said you can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights. So true. And, this last week I learned you can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle waiting in line, walking in a crowd, and arriving late to the airport. It was no small irony to me that three days into a conference in which our egos were perpetually rubbed and we were being told over and over again how wonderful and considerate and socially aware we were, that more than 2 people were literally trampled to the ground as others pushed their way through Toyota Center frantically racing for a front row seat so that they could hear more lectures on the virtues of our company and its management team. Yes. Soo considerate we all are. And, of course, how it warmed my spirit to hear managers from across the country cuss out a poor, minimum-wage bus driver for doing his job well and following directions. It’s a longer story than I really want to go into. But, honestly, wtf. The whole message, the whole point of this thing was completely lost on some ’em. But who knows… maybe they’re good at selling coffee.

The most valuable thing that has come from my time in Houston is the enriched relationship I now share with fellow managers in my district. We discovered that despite our deep differences, we have more in common than we’d ever realized and many of us are up against similar frustrations, challenges, and day-to-day crises. Coming home we have a newly enriched support system and empathy for one another.

Despite the propaganda/brainwashing element of it all, I learned more than I’d anticipated and had more fun than expected too, though I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy to be home.

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