In my second year of law school I was able to secure a position with a sole practitioner in Beverly Hills. His name was Michael David Freeman and he hired me to be his legal secretary.
Although I had not done secretarial work before, I was a pretty good, fast, and accurate touch typist and I was doing well in school and kind of knew my way around the issues I would be dealing with.
MDF specialized in personal liability and property damage as the representative of three major car rental firms: Thrifty, Budget, and Dollar. He had previously been a C-level executive of one of them and had numerous connections.
We did some other work as well: a little contracts; some wills and trusts; and maybe a little family law. This was from (approximately) late ‘74 to late ‘76.
Shortly after I started working for him, he purchased an IBM memory typewriter and sent me to a one-day class in Century City to learn how to use the thing. It was my introduction to word processing, pretty much at the inception of the concept.
Between learning to skillfully use the device and sending out demand letters, discovery requests, and other miscellaneous documents, I sometimes riffed on the concepts I was conveying with a mix of facts and legal mumbo jumbo, and now and again would fire off a letter or two to friends … just for the fun of it.
Yesterday, while desperately searching for a document I needed in another context, I accidentally came across a couple of those letters. What follows is one of them I sent to my long-time, dear friend Loren.
This poem was written by a Facebook friend who I’ve never actually met and who lives on the other side of the continent, as do many of my FB friends. It’s haunting, poignant, beautiful, and not a little sad. I feel the same for my daughters, though my youngest is so troubled and needy, I can’t seem to do anything for her.
I’m trying to stay inside for the duration, but grocery deliveries are either delayed because of the demand or horrendously expensive. I will probably go through the weekend, but will venture out to Trader Joe’s on Monday, as I did this past Monday. Wish me luck . . . but please read the poem. It’s really a tear jerker (though, as a man, one of my superpowers is to choke ’em down.)
For Micaiah 3/26/2020 You probably don’t remember this: One day we were joking in the car after school. You said something about being a mistake. I corrected you. “I got pregnant by a…
When I was at Rocketdyne, my last job was to research, test, and (if warranted and reasonable) deploy social media and collaboration technologies. Part of the reason I took the early severance package they offered back in 2010 was because I didn’t believe the company was really commmitted to supporting what I was doing.
Now it looks like I’m going to have to resurrect my knowledge of those tools and platforms just so I can interact with my friends and family. For instance, anyone who sees a lot of my posts on Facebook knows I usually go to the gym on Fridays, then out to dinner and for a couple of craft beers with two of my former colleagues from Rocketdyne.
We can no longer do that for the next month or so, and we’ve already talked (texted) about how to get together virtually. Not sure how, but there are lots of options. I’ve been using Slack with Quantellia, but I’m really interested in something free. I’ve used Google Hangouts before and I’ve been reading some good reviews from Zoom users. I don’t think Zoom existed back then, but I’m going to find out about it.
The saying is “necessity is the mother of invention,” and I have no doubt the next few months are going to drive our innovative capabilities and our need to collaborate and work together. While I’m not looking forward to being essentially cooped up in my house with my wife and two teenagers (plus a dog and two cats) I am a little excited about discovering the positive things we can extract from the disruption. I expect there will be far more than most of us can contemplate. Hang in there everyone. Let’s expand that silver lining.
This pic was taken in about 1972 or 1973. I lived for about two or three years with these guys in two three-bedroom homes, side-by-side in North Hollywood, CA. Two sets of brothers and two close friends. In the background, at one time or another, those two tanks held a couple of snakes. One of them was named “Ellis A. Piary” (because that’s where he/she was rudely captured by one of our number) and the other, naturally, was named “Lefty.” Two of the people in this photo are not on Facebook, but everyone’s still alive!! — with Rick London, Loren Goetz, Stephen Ladd, Tom Shannon and Mark London.
Sometime after this picture was taken, I traveled to Cuba with the sixth contingent of the Venceremos Brigade and, shortly after my return in the Summer of ’73, I began attending law school. There have been some changes over the years, and a couple of us don’t talk much with each other, but for the most part we’ve all remained friends.
Some carving, some cooking, and the calm before the storm.
Last night’s dinner at the Simi Valley Senior Center, organized by my Rotary Club, and for which I was a co-Chair, was a resounding success. There were a few less people than the past couple of years, but we still fed around 350 – 400 seniors, plus a ton of volunteers. It is so gratifying to see so many people come together to make something happen like this and, truthfully, it is all the Thanksgiving I need.
Today will be a lagniappe; a little something extra; a little more than I need or have any reason to expect.
I have so much to be grateful for. My family and, especially, the two beautiful girls without whom my life would be so much poorer (though I’m having some doubts about the 13 y/o 😉 ). My wife, Linda, who puts up with my volatility, especially since I retired from the job I expected to work at until I dropped dead at my desk. My life after retirement, which is slowly resolving into something considerably different than I thought it would, but that I’m settling into rather comfortably. The wonderful people I’ve had the opportunity to work with and learn from. My numerous friends, both irl and virtual, whose sharing, comfort, and kindness have kept me from despondency and buoyed my spirits when things weren’t looking all that good, and who have also helped me continue to grow as a human being.
I’m also grateful for the ability to think critically and the strength to seek out the truth and accept its lessons, no matter how challenging or harsh they may be, without losing faith or diminishing the love I feel for the human race and this beautiful world we live in.
Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. Be well, be strong, be faithful to the truth. Much love and respect to you all.
OK — I’m lying about the six ways and the lists. I couldn’t help myself. I had just been perusing the Pulse articles available on LinkedIn and was amused by how many of them contain lists, e.g. “7 Ways Leaders Fail”, “The 8 Simple Rules Of Expert Negotiation”, “3 Traits Shared By Companies And Hoarders”, “The four types of clients you should fire immediately”, “12 Email Marketing Credibility Boosters”, etc., etc., etc. I could go on for some time, but I won’t bore you as much as I was. I know I’ve read somewhere that lists are a great way to create posts and get people to read them. Nevertheless, I tend to shy away from using that strategy because it seems so formulaic to me, and I’m not interested in taking that route.
I know I should have written this earlier today but, as I’ve noted numerous times before, I’m not a journalist and I don’t do this as a business, so I have never been all that interested in an editorial calendar or lining up my posts perfectly with anything in particular. Nevertheless, today is a bit of a milestone and I thought I should mark it with a bit of possibly rational blather.
It’s been exactly — datewise — four and one-half years since I retired from Rocketdyne, where I labored for approximately 23 years. My last day (though, to tell the truth, I had been working at home and nobody expected much from me for the final two weeks I was officially “there”) was May 14, 2010. I can still vividly recall my final moments; being walked to the guard at the front reception area, handing in my badge, saying goodbye and shaking hands with my Manager, and walking out the door knowing I could not walk back in beyond the reception area without an escort.
I felt both elation and sadness. I threw my arms up in the air, but had tears in my eyes. Both emotions were warranted, as the last four and a half years have made quite clear. It’s not an easy thing walking away from a large group of people who you’ve come to think of as almost family and, make no mistake about it, once the main thing you have in common with them is gone, most people essentially disappear from your life forever.
Blogging on the beach, something I’ve never actually done
For me, this has been the hardest part of retirement. While I’ve stayed in touch with a few of my former colleagues, some of whom remained and others who became casualties of our nation’s decision to essentially forget about space exploration (at least manned space exploration) for what still seems like forever, the majority of people I saw on a regular basis I have not heard from again. There’s also a sort of mid-range group who I’ve connected with via Facebook and LinkedIn, but I’ve had little contact with most of them.
I think this is a big problem with our entire concept of retirement. In our culture it seems once you retire, you might as well be dead. The place you worked at has no use for you and, since we are also a culture that celebrates youth and fears old age and death, nobody really wants to know what you’re doing. A possible exception is made for those people who worked at one company all, or almost all, of their life and, consequently, retire with enough money to not have to do anything to supplement their income. Remaining employees do seem to enjoy receiving the occasional postcard from an exotic location, or another reminder of what they, someday, may be able to do as well.
I’m sure there are those who thoroughly enjoy hanging out and doing whatever they want, or nothing at all. I’m not one of them. Bottom line, I guess, is this. I have managed to survive relatively well, though I have yet to find a way to supplement my income such that we’ll be reasonably comfortable for the foreseeable future. I do worry about what might happen in a few years when our income suffers from inflation or some disease or unfortunate turn of events depletes what little savings and investments remain.
I also worry about my physical and mental ability to generate income. At 67 years old, it’s difficult to not notice I’m gaining speed on that inevitable slide down life’s rollercoaster. Nevertheless, I’m not one for fretting too much about choices I’ve made. I’ve been characterized by others as a survivor; one who will find a way to make things happen. Especially when push comes to shove and I’m backed into a corner. I don’t actually want to reach that point, so I’m working on quite a few prospects and avenues.
In another six months it will have been half a decade since I left the place I had been at longer than anywhere save this planet. I’m looking forward to celebrating that occasion a little more energetically. If I’m lucky, I’ll be able to afford throwing a little party for some of those former colleagues who remain friends. That would be a hoot.
Only about 6,000,000 people have viewed this so far (at least on YouTube) and it’s got to be one of the best car commercials I’ve ever seen. Thought I would share in case any of my readers have yet to encounter it.
Every time Facebook changes something on their (not sure whether to call it a platform, app, or service) offering, people seem to get all freaked out and complain because they have to learn something new or change the way they were doing things. I understand and appreciate change can be a bit disconcerting, but I’m one of those people who not only accepts change; I actually seek it out. So when Facebook adds or rearranges things I immediately start looking for how I can take advantage of it.
Just so I’m clear, I am not referring to the issues of privacy and information security that arise now and again. That’s an entirely different story and, while I am clearly not as protective as many, I am always concerned about the security of my truly private information and that of my family. Changes in functionality are an entirely different animal and that’s what I’m concerned with here.
When Facebook first introduced Timeline and made it available as a developer version, I was all over it. I was anxious to try it out, primarily because I was building a business that was based in large part on my understand of and familiarity with Facebook. I was anxious to see what they were doing, even though at the time it was not available to fan pages, which is the part of FB my business is involved with. I went through the necessary steps and got myself going. Much like my introduction to Twitter well over four years ago, I really wasn’t sure how I was going to use or benefit from it, but I was sure I wanted to figure it out.
Now that it’s a part of fan pages and I’ve grown increasingly familiar with it, I’ve finally figured out how to use it for myself. Not my fan page, but my personal Timeline. I came into this world about the time personal photography was starting to take off. As a firstborn son, my parents took lots of pictures of me. They also took lots of pictures of family and, over the years, many of them have come into my possession. It wasn’t until Facebook made it possible for posts to be scheduled, i.e. given a Timeline date in the future and held in a queue until that time, when they would then appear, that I made the connection to the past.
Yes, It’s About Me
Up until very recently I have shared some old pictures, but I have dated them on my Timeline on the date I posted them. I have since come to realize I can create somewhat of an autobiography by posting items (pictures, scanned documents, etc.) and dating them appropriately. I can even add in locations and people I was with, provided they are current Facebook friends. This is no small thing for me, as I have two fairly young (11 and 8) children to whom I want to leave a record of my life. Using Timeline to do so seems so much easier than writing a book. It also is far more graphic and, because many of my friends (including those who were present when some of the pictures were taken) can post comments to them, they become even richer and more engaging. Furthermore, as evidenced by the picture above, my friends can share pictures they have, which become part of my Timeline as well.
Interestingly, this picture was posted last November and I only just tried to change the date to the year and approximate month in which it was taken. I wasn’t able to do it, but I requested my friend who posted it to make the change and he did. Actually, he told me he didn’t know how to do it (people my age seldom do), but he had someone take care of it. I also realized there was a friend in the pic who has since become a Facebook friend as well and I was able to tag him. He chimed in within less than a day.
I could never recreate my past in this way by myself. First of all, I don’t know any other tool that provides the combination of functionality that Facebook does. Surely there’s nothing that would allow me to slowly record a retrospective with input from many people who were there at the time or who experienced similar episodes and milestones. I believe I have a lot more to learn about doing this, but I’m enjoying discovering new ways in which to create the virtual experience I want to leave for my kids. Maybe it won’t work the way I am envisioning. Maybe my kids won’t care when it comes down to it. I don’t much care at this point. It’s a great learning experience and – so far – it’s a lot of fun because I almost always get feedback from others when I do post something. After all, it may be dated long ago on my Timeline, but it’s something new and it shows up in my friends’ news feed when I post it.
Anybody out there have stories about their use of timeline, or have you discovered a bit of functionality you really like that you think others might want to know about . . . or that I might want to know about? Please be so kind as to share. Thanks.
Wonderful 10 minute TED talk on how Facebook, Google, and others are doing us a disservice by personalizing the things we see. This speaker points out that we are in danger of becoming a web of one when algorithms without deep ethical roots are used to determine what we want to know about. Great talk.
I’ve been concentrating on a couple of new clients and have neglected to post for a couple of weeks. During this time I’ve been thinking about some of the subjects I’d like to cover. One of those is the use of Foursquare for small, retail businesses. Actually, it can be used for virtually any type of business, but the usage model it presents is most applicable to businesses with lots of traffic and churn. I see them as being in somewhat of a pyramid. For instance, those businesses that will get the most value from Foursquare are restaurants, bars, and clubs. Next in line are retail outlets and, finally, service businesses with a brick and mortar location.
Other types of businesses can use the service to get some free advertising, but if your business isn’t amenable to friends sharing the location (primarily because they want to enjoy each others’ company), it’s not going to have the same kind of value for you. As an example, there are Dentist’s offices who use it to present teeth cleaning and whitening specials. I am pretty sure people don’t check in to their Dentist’s office because they’re having a bang-up time and want to share it with their friends. However, everyone who uses Foursquare on their phone is going to get an impression of the special the office has created. You never know and, after all, it’s currently free!
Thanks to a heads-up from one of my friends, @mor_trisha, I read an article at ClickZ (authored by Jeanne Jennings) making essentially the same points I wanted to make. I’d like give you my version of why I think Foursquare is an important channel for small business to use, with a bit of local flavor for examples. I’d also like to expand a bit on how to use the service if you are a business owner considering using it.
First, let me say a few things about Foursquare in case you aren’t aware of what it is and how it’s used. Foursquare is a location-based, check-in application that consumers with smart phones can download and use to find nearby locations their friends frequent, as well as check-in when they are there. In addition, those merchants who have taken the time to “claim” their venue using the website provided for their use can create specials to entice new customers and to reward the loyalty of their ongoing customers. More about that in a bit.
As a user, Foursquare provides you with the ability to “check in” at a restaurant, pub, retail outlet, or service provider’s location whenever you are there. Using your phone’s GPS system you are provided, through the app, with a list of those venues that are close by. You can also see if any of your friends (or anyone else for that matter) is at a particular location so you can join them if you wish. In a rural environment or in a small town with few users, this capability is probably not all that useful. In my hometown, which is relatively small, the usage is now growing to the point where enough people are checking in for it to be useful. I imagine in large, urban areas it’s very useful – and likely lots of fun for some. There is also a couple of gaming aspects (points, earned badges) to using the service, but I’ll save that for another post.
Think Global, Check-in Local
For business owners, Foursquare provides some interesting capabilities that are available for free. You cannot access them, however, until you take a little time to “claim” your venue. This is a relatively painless process that involves creating an account if you don’t already have one, finding your location on their website, and clicking on the link that appears on the right hand side of your screen. It says “Do you manage this venue? Claim here.” Once you click on the link you will have to answer a few more questions, then agree to receive a phone call where you will be given a four-digit code to enter on another screen. After that, you will have access to some useful tools, which I’ll get to in a moment.
Now, I said relatively painless for a reason. I have had several instances where a business that’s been around for a long time was unable to use their phone number because Foursquare said they couldn’t verify it belonged to them. Since they had the number for quite some time, I’m unclear why this happens. Nevertheless, it isn’t the end of the road. Foursquare will give you the opportunity to have them contact you by snail mail, in which case you’ll receive the code you need as well as a cling to put in your window to advertise your presence on the site.
Once you have claimed your venue you will have access to their “Manager Tools”. These include venue statistics, which will show you number of check-ins, social reach (whether or not the info was sent to Twitter or Facebook), time, gender, and age breakdowns (as available), and the profiles of your visitors. This information can be presented in numerous time slices, e.g. today, last week, last 30, 60, & 90 days, or all. All of this information is useful for understanding the penetration and coverage you’re getting with people who use Foursquare.
However, in my opinion the most useful tool of all (and the one that will really make the stats worthwhile) is the ability to create campaigns and specials. To start a campaign you simply add a special, of which there are five designed to attract new customers and two designed to reward the loyalty of existing customers. These specials (with my suggested ways they might be used) are as follows:
Attract new customers
Swarm Special (If 10 people check in at the same time you all get 20% off your meal, etc.)
Friends Special (Check in with 3 friends and dessert is free for the group)
Flash Special (The first 10 check-ins after 8pm get a free beverage)
Newbie Special (Get a free appetizer on your first check-in)
Check-in Special (Get a half-price beverage every time you check in)
Reward existing customers
Loyalty Special (Get a free appetizer every fourth time you check in)
Mayor Special (The Mayor gets 25% off their entire bill)
Foursquare also provides some nice, printable flyers to hand out to your customers and your employees, so everyone knows how it works and what an “opened” special looks like. Hint – if it’s in black and white, it hasn’t been unlocked. There’s also a lock icon that appears as unlocked when it is.
Ms. Jenning pointed out four good examples of how to (and not to) use Foursquare specials to get the results you’re looking for. I’d like to do the same for four locations in my neighborhood.
They offer a standard check-in special. Each check-in gets you $10 off a purchase of $50 or more. With a purchase of exactly $50 that works out to a 20% discount; large enough to entice new customers. Frankly, I would have used a straight 20% discount, perhaps with a min (maybe even a max), rather than a minimum purchase. As it stands, if you spend $100 (and who spends only $50 on clothing nowadays?) you’re only getting a 10% discount. Maybe not enough to bring in new business.
Cherry on Top
They also offer a check-in special of 10% off with every check-in. This isn’t a bad deal. Most people are going to go for ice cream or frozen yogurt after a meal, or as a summer-time treat, when they feel like it and, all things being equal, I would go to the place that offers a discount. Most don’t, so I suspect this is at least marginally helping them compete with the other venues in town.
Limon Latin Grill
This one is somewhat similar to the example given by Ms. Jennings of Bangkok Joe’s. It’s a bit puzzling to me why they think this would entice anyone. They actually offer three check-in specials presented as one. Your first check-in is worth $2.00 on a drink, the second is $5.00 off any entree after five check-ins, the third is a free drink after 10 check-ins. This is not an inexpensive restaurant and I believe a normal meal, especially if it includes a drink, will cost at least $20. This makes the second of the specials worth about 5%; not exactly something to write home about. The same goes for the other ones. None of them seem very enticing. I’d be curious to know if they’re getting much action at all. I actually used the first one, but only because I went there to see a friend’s band playing. The waitress was unfamiliar with the entire concept, which leads me to believe they aren’t getting much traction out of the campaign. I’m not surprised.
California Pizza Kitchen
This venue is using a Friends Special, stated so: “Show you phone to a manager and get 20% off when you and 3 friends check-in to the same CPK! Excludes alcohol, tax & gratuity, gift cards. Not valid w/other offers. Valid at participating locations.” What I get from this is the place is probably micromanaged, as I find it a bit mystifying they don’t trust their wait staff to validate the check-ins. It’s also a bit comical to me they feel the need to qualify the offer so carefully. Lighten up! Nevertheless, 20% off isn’t a bad deal for a mid-priced meal with 3 of your BFFs.
There are numerous other examples of specials being offered, many by venues you probably wouldn’t expect to find using them. I want to think about them a little more and maybe drop in to a couple to find out how they’re doing with them. The lesson here – if you’re running a restaurant, bar, nightclub, or a retail store with the potential for lots of foot traffic, your venue has probably already been entered into Foursquare’s database. Now you need to get out there, claim it, and start providing some specials to take advantage of what it has to offer. Remember, IT’S FREE, but that probably won’t last forever. Why not take advantage of it while you can? You’re welcome.
Since my retirement from Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne in 2010, I have spent quite a bit of energy on developing work as a social media marketer for small business, a business manager for an AI software development firm, and as an editor/proofreader for a number of business books and a couple of novels, as well as a two-year return engagement at Rocketdyne from 2015 to 2017.
I have decided to stop actively pursuing business in these fields and am now positioning myself to be a writer. I have done quite a bit of writing over the years, but I’ve never really attempted to make any money at it; at least not specifically. I’m starting out with a couple of memoirs and, currently, I’m studying the craft, creating a detailed outline and timeline, and honing my skills as a storyteller. Pretty sure I’ll be writing some fiction as well.
The views expressed herein are those of the author. Any opinions regarding the value or worth of particular business processes, tools, or procedures, whether at his former place of employment, at a current client's enterprise, or in general, are his responsibility alone.