Don’t they even care?

This summer my oldest daughter took on the challenge of arranging not one, but two blood drives. Her enthusiasm was infectious, and her anxiety of taking on such a huge task was very understandable. She arranged with the local blood bank to work out the particulars, walked many hours handing out flyers all over town, got buy in from our community center to allow the mobile blood bank to set up in the parking lot, and we contacted friends who could help us get announcements into local papers and newsletters. She was very proud of her effort.

Reality set in when the second blood drive was winding down that she wasn’t going to hit her number of donations goal. She learned people who talked a big game that they always donate didn’t commit or show up, she learned that people had many excuses to not donate their time and lifesaving blood. Her disappointment was heartbreaking. “How could it be that so few people helped?” “Don’t they even care?”

This summer she learned that it is a small percentage of most communities that carry the burden of helping others. She learned that setting aside time to help others is not something everyone is willing to do. More importantly, she gained a much better appreciation for that small group of people that do many things to help the community and schools.

Many didn’t help, but approximately 180 people in need of blood were given the gift of life. She now stands with the scout leaders, community sport league coaches, school boards, volunteer librarians, volunteer firefighters, and many more folks who give for the benefit of their community.

Her resolve to help others has increased and for that I am thankful.

The Meaning of Veteran’s Day

I’m reposting last year’s Veteran’s Day blog.

Casual Engineer

Growing up, Veteran’s Day usually meant a long weekend away from school.  As I grew older, that sentiment didn’t really change.  It didn’t change until I became a veteran.  Now, as I am certainly older, my view of this day means much more and many, many different things.  Mostly it means I am proud to be part of such an elite group.

As this day ends, one must know it is not about who is in the White House.  Nor does it matter which party is in control.  What matters is the common folk that left the normalcy of an every day life to protect our country’s freedom.  Presidents, and for that matter all politicians, come and go.  A veteran, on the other hand, leaves much more behind them when they leave the service.  They, sometimes…many times, lose friends.  As a result that veteran has lost a piece of their…

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What is transparency? We know transparency is important and can contribute to strong relationships, but not everyone does a good in applying it. Certainly there are times when one is deliberately non-transparent, but, politicians aside, people are generally honest and their motives transparent. Allowing the receiver of the information to search for more answers has a tendency to result in unintended consequences.

Searching for answers

Could it be that lack of transparency is not the issue, but how one defines transparency? For example, Webster’s dictionary defines transparency as “the quality or state of being transparent”, while Wikipedia states it is “the perceived quality of intentionally shared information from a sender”. Margaret Wolfe Hungerford is the person most widely cited for coining the phrase, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, and the Webster and Wikipedia definitions show that transparency problems start with the originator of shared information and how the receiver perceives the shared information.

How, then, does a relationship bridge the view the quality or state of being transparent with the perceived quality of the information? It starts with a conversation between the giver and receiver clearly stating what they need to be successful, and finding an equitable compromise. Communication is key, even more so in the initial stages of the relationship as you learn about the other’s expectations. The concept is so simple, but very often overlooked. Why do you think this is a common occurrence?

Misinformation and Assumptions

As the president for an Home Owners Association (HOA) a few years ago, I realized that many people make decisions based on misinformation and assumptions. Generally this occurred when financial decisions were being presented to the community, or least those few who showed up to the meetings. I always found it interesting how willing people were to speak nonsense on any topic they opposed. The problem, though, was the fact that people were so uninformed that logical conversations were fruitless. It became a schoolyard name calling match; I was called immoral and other not-so-nice names. I’m surprised someone didn’t blame George W. Bush for the problems in the neighborhood.

I am just as guilty for assuming a position on a topic to only learn later I was misinformed; my embarrassment is usually quite high once I realize my mistake. It’s human-nature to assume, but it makes no sense why we continue to be misinformed with so much information within our reach. There can be positive outcomes if one is willing to learn from the mistake. It can lead to a stronger friendship or team, or at least remove barriers that has prevented rich discussions.

ass out of you and me


Superstar versus The Team

Would you rather have a superstar or a team? Certainly the superstar will probably always play well and most likely help your team win games, but in a team sport, the superstar is worthless without a team. It’s odd how folks forget that.


I suggest you search for the keyword superstar, using your favorite image search engine,  if you need a few moments of humorous distraction. It is interesting.

Change vs. the status-quo

A team typically starts out with a single goal in mind. A single function that will make their customer’s life better. There are examples of products we use every day which prove whether a company kept its focus on that goal or lost sight. Some companies have done quite well staying focused on their goal, while others have failed and go into a perpetual loop of redefining itself. Google has probably done better than many other companies. Apple has been successful by taking the reverse path of slimming down its offerings to a few computer models, phones and tablets.
From the customer’s viewpoint, Google Search has hardly changed through the years.
google 1990's
We know the reality to be that Google’s search feature only serves the company’s primary purpose of making money from our searches; the search function has changed over the years with little perceived impact on the customer experience.
Google 2014
Yahoo! This company also wanted to provide search to customers.
Yahoo 1990's
Yahoo has lost their way, and has been in a constant brand revitalization for years. What is their purpose now?
Yahoo 2014
Change is good. I’m not opposed to change, as I’ve written several times about it, and I’ve made numerous changes in my life. An unfocused change, however, is disastrous. A change in direction while trying to maintain the status-quo is difficult, especially if the change is in response to a competitor; keeping up with competitor’s seems to be the downfall for many, as it means the company that is responding to competitor changes, or market shifts, is no longer in control of their destiny.

Fear — The Little Death

“I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” — Frank Herbert, “Dune”

The Question of How

How will we ever accomplish this in such a short amount of time? How can we possibly do this without support? How will we do it? How will we convince others it is a good idea? How much time do we have? How many people will be assigned to the project? Ugh, how is it possible that a word can be so often associated to negativity? Did you see what I did there? Think of those that didn’t let HOW become a negative driver, but simply just did it.
The NSA certainly didn’t ask…
NSA didn't ask how
Neither did Steve Jobs
Steve Jobs iPhone announcement
The Dude didn’t ask how, but maybe he should have.
The dude abides man
I’ve written several times since I’ve started blogging about how my kids, really any kids, are unafraid to try most things. They’ve not had too much discouragement in their short lives to prevent them from diving in to something new. I like to believe I have taken a similar approach in my life, but I know there have been times that I’ve ruined it by asking How! I enjoy new experiences and that is one of the few things I hope my children inherit from me and keep passing it on.
What about you? Do you ask HOW to often instead of simply acting on the idea?

Intentional Design

I am not a designer, nor do I aspire to be one, but I do enjoy, and sometimes marvel, at good design. One thing that has always fascinated me is how companies manipulate the customer’s experience mostly resulting in good user experiences, but occasionally it results in a mediocre to crappy experience. An example of good and bad intentional design is what I’m discussing today.

Intentional design has positive impacts, such as when you are registering for a new Ebay account. The registration page is intentionally designed to be easy for you to understand exactly where select to create a new account.

Ebay Registration Page

On the other hand, Ebay presents this page to a customer who is wanting to discontinue a subscription of following a seller. Can you find the Un-follow seller button? You are wrong if you guessed it is located in the More Actions drop down. This page was intentionally designed to discourage you from completing your desired action.

Ebay Un-follow Seller Page

Dumb design decisions can be mostly overlooked, but the intentionally deceptive design decisions like the Ebay design team has made in this example are the most frustrating.

What are your favorite examples of intentional website designs?


Oh, and in case you’re still wondering, the un-follow button is hidden until you move your mouse below the seller’s store name. Wasn’t that absolutely easy to find?

I could never do that

What has been that one moment in your life when you said to yourself, “I could never do that!”? But, you did do it. It felt good. Really Good. Henry Ford

This quote is attributed to Henry Ford, “Whether you think that you can, or that you can’t, you are usually right.”

Just like a child learning to ride, one’s desire to accomplish has to be greater than the fear of doing something new.

Connor's first bike ride

Thinking you cannot do something limits your life. Doesn’t it seem appropriate that I just thought of the famous Nike ad? Just do it!