Monday, October 31, 2022

Trick of Treat

Thought I'd stroll around the 'hood and check out the Halloween decorations. As always, they're pretty good. And since my neighborhood is old, brick, gaslit, and can give off Halloween vibes, this is no surprise. Here's a sampling of what I saw the other day:

Just out back: the last angry ghosts

Things look a bit kinder and gentler around the corner

Not all that interesting, but if you look closely, those pumpkin-eens are rotting away. 

Subtle, with those skeletal hands in the corners, but I'm wondering when the rats are going to delve into that pumpkin/gourd heap.

Hanging around Mt. Vernon Street.

Wonder if the kids in the family picked these decorations?

Vs. the professionally done Alice in Wonderland theme going here.

This is in Louisburg Square, where the rich folks dwell. (How long have I lived here and I still can't remember whether it's Lewisburg Square or Looeyburg Square. 

This is John Kerry's house. I suspect he had little to do with setting this up.

This is Louisburg Square again, just out front of John Kerry's house. Oh, and I looked it up. It's pronounced Lewisburg Square.

I can't figure out what's going on here, but when I walked by there was a 10 person production crew out front, all wearing matching Patagonia jackets. I think that this is where Robin Cook, the author of Coma and other books lives or lived. Whatever it is, I wasn't invited. 

Just hanging around.

Us, too.

Pillow Talk at a gift shop. Sleep well, my sweet. 

Mummy heads at Blackstone's, my favorite gift shop.

Whitney Hotel.  Same as last year's, but definitely a keeper.

If it's decent whether tonight, I'll head out to see the kiddos. Trick or Treaters are all over the Hill. But they don't tend to stop by Beacon Street, so I'm off the giving-out hook.

Maybe I'll get me a Butterfinger to chomp on along the way. 

Friday, October 28, 2022

Root, root, root for someone. In this case, the Phillies.

I'm a lifelong baseball fan.

Even when "my" team isn't in it - and this year, the Red Sox were abysmally out of it - I catch at least a couple of innings in most of the playoff games. And will pretty much watch all of the World Series, which starts tonight.

The team I was rooting for to win the 2022 World Series was the Cleveland Guardians.

I was pulling for Cleveland for a number of reasons. For one thing, they haven't won since 1948 - even before I was born -  and this is the longest World Series drought among the 30 Major League Baseball teams. When Cleveland last won, they were the Indians, and there were only 16 teams, 8 in the American League, 8 in the National. There were no wildcards, no divisional playoffs, no league championships. Whoever finished first in their league made it to the October Classic (which now runs into early November...). In 1948, those teams were Cleveland (AL) and the Boston Braves, now in Atlanta, in the NL. 

Then there's the Cleveland manager, Terry "Tito" Francona, who managed the Red Sox to their first World Series championship in 86 years, way back in 2004. Francona is forever in my heart. Good guy. Deserves to win, if anyone really ever does.

I also like that the team is now named for the "Guardians of Traffic," the wicked-cool Art Deco statues that grace a bridge near their stadium. 

And I like that Cleveland is a low payroll team, ranking 28th among the 30 MLB teams with a lowly team payroll of $82M. Alas, Cleveland lost to the Damn Yankees (3rd highest payroll, at $265M) in the divisional playoffs. 

Although "my" team is a big spender (6th highest 2022 MLB payroll at $223M), I like to see the little spenders make it big.

Beyond wanting Cleveland to win, my only other rooting interest during the playoffs was rooting against the Los Angeles Dodgers and the New York Yankees. Fortunately, the baseball gods smiled on me and the Dodgers lost their divisional series, and the Yankees lost their league championship series. This made me very happy. Bad enough I have all the political goings-on to fret about. My parallel nightmare scenario was Dodgers vs. Yankees in the World Series. 

You just cannot watch any sort of sporting event without picking a side. Would I really have had to root for the Yankees?

Thankfully, I was spared that decision.

Mostly, I enjoyed watching the playoff games.

Loved seeing the Astros sweep the hapless Yankees. And I much enjoyed that New York's mental strength coach thought that, with the Yankees down 3-0 and facing elimination, it would be motivating to show them a video of the only team that ever came back from a 3-0 deficit to win a league championship. That team would be the Red Sox, who famously rebounded in 2004 to snatch victory from the jaws of the Yankees. The motivation apparently didn't work.

The National League Championship Series between the Phillies and the San Diego Padres was far better. The games had a lot of lead changes and the whole thing was far more exciting than the outcome- Phillies winning in 5 games - suggests.

Based mostly on geographic proximity, I was rooting for the Phillies to beat San Diego. Which they did.

Generally, I will go with the American League in the World Series.

But for a variety of reasons, I really don't like the Houston Astros.

Yes, I recognize that they are an excellent team, well balanced, well coached. Nonetheless, based in large part on their having knocked the Olde Town Team out of contention in the 2021 league championship series, I just plain don't like them. Plus, Texas.

Sure, the Phillies are a big money club. Fourth on the list at $255M. But so's Houston, coming in ninth at $193M.

But the Phillies seem like a gritty and likable bunch. They are a pleasure to watch. And I know a lot more folks from Philly than I do folks from Houston.

I hope the Phillies win it all. 

But if they don't, I won't be in any way, shape, or form distraught. (Distraught is what I'll experience if Pennsylvania elects Oz to the Senate.)

Once the World Series concludes, I will promptly forget who won and begin mentally preparing myself for the start of the 2023 baseball season, when it will be the 'wait until next year' year that Red Sox fans are hoping for. 

But you have to root, root, root for someone. And this year, for me, it's the Philadelphia Phillies.

Now let's go play some ball.

Thursday, October 27, 2022


Even though I'm no longer a working stiff, I still occasionally - okay, rarely - enjoy (kinda sorta) reading about what's cookin' in the good old work world. And this includes what the academics have to say. Especially if the academic is Professor Bob Sutton of Stanford.

I don't know Bob but, in the past, I've reviewed his works, or keyed posts off of them. (Among other books, Bob wrote The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't. As you can imagine, I had plenty to say about that one.) We also had a bit of an e-mail correspondence back in the day. 

Bob is a wonderful writer: interesting, witty, and humane, and - who doesn't like flattery - back in the day (long, long ago) when we were blog-pals, Bob recommended Pink Slip to his readers.

Anyway, the latest I've seen by him is an article of his that appeared recently in The Wall Street Journal, which - miraculously - Bob managed to get in front of the paywall.

In "Why Bosses Should Ask Employees to Do Less—Not More," Bob argues that rather than piling on more of everything organizations should think about simplifying. 

It isn’t that addition is inherently bad. But when leaders are undisciplined about piling on staff, gizmos, software, meetings, rules, training and management fads, organizations become too complicated, their people get overwhelmed and exhausted, and their resources are spread so thin that all their work suffers.

Been there, experienced that. All of it.

I worked for one company that was, admittedly, completely undisciplined and supremely dysfunctional. I might even say that this one place put the dys in dysfunctional. I have never seen anything that could quite compare to the crazy little Cambridge place where I spent the longest block (over 9 years) of time during my corporate career. It goes without saying that I loved working there, even though it was spectacularly nuts. (My sister Kath long maintained that I sought out dysfunctional workplaces because I didn't have enough dysfunction in my own life.)

Anyway, at one point, Dysfunctional Software, Inc. (or, as I referred to it in All Worked Up (in which I wrote about the Charismatic Asshole) The Next Billion Dollar Software Company. [Aside to the reader: it wasn't.]) brought in a retired admiral to instill some discipline and turn things around. [Aside to the reader: he didn't.]

One thing that The Admiral tried to do was put some processes in place. And the first place he started was having the retired Chief Petty Office he brought in with him create a manual for how to order office supplies. A 17-page manual complete with flow charts. 

Prior to joining Dysfunctional Software, Inc., I'd spent a few grim years at Wang Labs, which had insane processes for everything. Even Wang didn't have a 17-page manual detailing how to order a pencil.

Bob's article included an interactive component, asking readers "which time-wasting activity most needs to be cut back in your organization?" The choices: Meetings, Emails, Documentation/Record Keeping, Hiring Processes, Socializing, Training, Performance Reviews. 

I do have one question - by Socializing, does Bob mean "obligatory fun" corporate functions, or hanging around BS-ing with colleagues - but for the most part, the choices are good ones. I will observe that I never worked for any place where we spent too much time on Performance Reviews. I often went years without giving or receiving one. 

Anyway, although I don't work, and thus don't have an organization, I voted anyway. (Hope this doesn't constitute voter fraud.)

And I voted for Meetings.

One (needless to say, dysfunctional) place I worked - it dysfunctioned its way into bankruptcy and dissolution - was completely meeting-crazy.

You could literally spend your entire day in meetings, from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Other than the absence of the bell ringing alerting us to change classes, I often felt as if I were back in high school. Five minutes before the hour, pick up your notebooks and move onto your next class meeting. 

Some folks brought their laptops and did work during the meetings, which I was never bold enough to do. Of course, when the meetings were blessedly on a conference bridge - this was before meeting technology was advanced enough for Zoom-like video meetings - we could turn on mute and work away.

A prominent feature of meetings in this company was that we were often fed at them, generally that meant a full breakfast at an early a.m. meeting, and - of course - a full lunch for noon gatherings. 

After a while, I figured out which meetings I could delegate someone else in my group to attend. This often meant that the meeting organizer was pissed off. It was deemed insulting to send someone junior. But everyone did it, and enough was enough. I made it okay for the people who I dispatched in my stead by giving them opportunities to attend and, if possible, have a real role at, meetings where there were more senior people they could gain some visibility, strut their stuff, network...

In his article, Bob includes a lot of good examples - far better than my personal experiences: his are actually researched. So since the piece isn't behind the WSJ paywall, go forth and read. 

Here's his bottom line on why more isn't necessarily more.

For so many companies, the opposite—less, less, less—is the key to success. Subtraction clears our minds and gives us time to focus on what really counts. It sets the stage for creative work, giving us the space to fail, fret, discuss, argue about and experiment with seemingly crazy ideas—the ideas that can transform a company, and make employees happier and more productive.

Addition by subtraction. Not that I have any skin in this particular game, but I'm all for it. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2022 dooby do

I always find in interesting when a local kid makes it entrepreneurially good. Even if I don't really appreciate or completely get what they're entrepreneurying about.
This is the case with Jordan Greenfield who was profiled recently in the Boston Globe
His company, (pronounced “who-bee”), creates a single landing page for the online activities of celebrities and influencers — Instagram or TikTok accounts, e-commerce stores — so followers don’t have to hop around from site to site. It’s still small, but thanks to Greenfield’s persistence, the company has landed some notable users: Tom Brady, Jeff Bezos, actor Chris Hemsworth, the DJ Diplo, the Boston Celtics, and Forever 21.
Greenfield is a natural born hustler, and I mean that in the most positive way - even though the very idea of hustling/self-promoting is both exhausting and antithetical to everything I hold dear in myself and in the people I love. 

I mean, I saw the movie How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Robert Morse, Rudy Vallee) when I was in high school, and I'm still recovering from my fatigue.

Greenfield would no doubt not have even wasted any of his 2 hours and 1 minute time (I checked the running time on IMDB) on it. After all, he didn't want to climb someone else's corporate ladder. He wanted to make his own. 
He broke into the industry in his mid-twenties through a series of side hustles while working for a biotech company. One time he brought 50 Cent to a New England Patriots game to introduce him to owner Robert Kraft, so they could discuss selling the musician’s line of champagne at Gillette Stadium. In another case, he invited a couple from “The Bachelor” to a Boston nightclub, hoping the owners would notice.

Is it just me, or does anyone else find the thought of 50 Cent and Bob Kraft in a convo about selling champagne at Gillette Stadium to be the very apotheosis of American culture? Or is the apotheosis always going to be something to do with "The Bachelor" or "The Bachelorette?"

“I would do a lot of favors for free for people,” Greenfield said. “I was just trying to show my value.”

Man, I've been doing free favors for people my whole entire life. Too bad I'm too introverted, unhustley, or perhaps just too supine to have used my favors to show my value and cash in on it. Too bad that I've always  had - in the words of a tune from How to Succeed - way too much of "the cool clear eyes of a seeker of wisdom and truth" to do the hustle. 

Rats! Where was self-awareness when I could have used it? is one of several companies that offer a workaround. People simply use the address to their page as their main link-in-bio everywhere.

So, click on Brady’s Instagram profile and his link appears under his profile photo, instead of his having to choose one of his various accounts. On his page, a photo of the quarterback appears at the top, with icons linking to his Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook accounts, as well as more images and connections to his clothing brand, fitness company, or latest YouTube video.
Perhaps because I am not a follower of Tom Brady, Jeff Bezos, or Chris Hemsworth, I'd never seen in action.

But I searched for Tom Brady on Twitter, and there be And there's our boychik's profile, all linked up to 

Tom Brady@TomBrady
Family and Football
And when you click on, damned if you're not on a single page with a bunch of links to all things Tom Brady - clothing line, health and fitness, videos about his greatness, NFT's... And to an outfit called Shadow Lion:
Shadow Lion was founded in 2017 with the goal of supporting Tom Brady’s off-field media efforts. Leaning on insights from those experiences, we quickly began providing creative services to other athletes, influencers and organizations as well.
Brand, baby, brand. 
“You can take the old-school approach, and every single day you can change out your link-in-bio based on what you’re driving traffic to,” Greenfield said. “Or you can create this sleek hub of your Internet identity. It’s almost like you’re creating your own Wikipedia page.”

If you happen to want something that's almost like your very own Wikipedia page. 

There are other companies providing the same service as, but is invitation-only. So I won't be joining anytime soon. Greenfield's focused on "people and brands with thousands of followers, as well as A-list celebrities." Like yer man, Tom Brady, who's as A-list as you get.

Greenfield describes his employees - he has 10 of them - as "a bunch of hustlers." Good thing I'm not looking for a job.

They better keep hustling, as some of their "big names" - including Meghan Trainor (note to self: join Ancestry and find out if we're related) - have decamped to similar platforms.’s next goal is much larger: to help creators sell merchandise, sign brand deals, and communicate with their audience.
But won't be doing it in Boston. Too few celebrities, too few A-listers. Greenfield's moving to LA.
“There’s too much to pass up, being here,” he said.
One more reason to love Boston...

Anyway, good luck to Jordan Greenfield. Love to see a Boston boy make good.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

Trashy behavior

Last spring, JRM Hauling, a local company that does trash pickup for a lot of communities in Massachusetts (especially on the North Shore, where they're based) was acquired by Republic Services, a multi-billion dollar outfit HQ'd in Arizona.  

Kudos to the Motzkin family on this sale.

JRM, founded nearly 30 years ago by James R. Motzkin, had been co-run by Motzkin  père with his son James S. Motzkin since Motzkin fils finished school. The company was one of those solid, unglamorous businesses that the Motzkins built from the ground up. (Despite everything I learned watching The Sopranos, I don't believe for a New Jersey minute that every trash hauling business is mobbed up.)

I'm sure it was plenty hard work to build their small but still sizable business - JRM had 350 employees and 300 trucks - and it's entirely understandable that, when a powerhouse outfit like Republic Services rolled in and made them an offer they couldn't refuse, they carted the loot off and sighed a big sigh of 'hey, we're rich' relief.

Good for them.

Not so good for the communities that they once served.

Although the FAQ explaining the move said this:

This transition should be seamless for you. We will provide the same level of service you are accustomed to receiving.

In October, JRM's operations were taken over by Republic and seamless it ain't exactly been 

Throughout the cities, towns, office parks, and housing complexes that Republic is now responsible for, trash is piling up. A pain for residents, a field day for vermin, both urban (rats) and suburban (racoons). Yummers.

Delivery days are being missed, customer complaints are being ignored, and the only good news seems to be that, given that it's October, we're not having a heat wave.

Lawrence, an old industrial city north of Boston, is one of the communities impacted.  

The stinky situation in Lawrence is playing out in other communities around Greater Boston, after the Arizona-based Fortune 500 company recently acquired their local waste contractor and threw trash collection schedules into chaos.

Now, after weeks of missed pickups outside houses and public buildings alike, inaccurate or unhelpful information from Republic, and fury among residents, town officials are threatening to cancel their contracts and levy six-figure fines on Republic. (Source: Boston Globe)
Other than paying lip service to the concept of doing better, Republic has been pretty non-responsive. Which makes it hard for the cities and towns to give their constituents a straight answer about what up. (In the first couple of weeks of the seamless transition, the town of Reading - population 25,000 - has gotten "more than 1,000 complaints." If it weren't so depressing, that number would be pretty impressive.)

Some cities and towns are taking care of business on their own, renting trucks and and enlisting their DPW employees to haul trash. 
In Reading, Town Manager Fidel Maltez joined DPW crews himself on Monday, clad in a neon safety vest, hoisting garbage bags and talking to residents.
Ah, DPW's. I remember back when.

Growing up, our garbage men worked for the City of Worcester. But they just picked up garbage (things like coffee grounds, eggshells, and orange peels, wrapped in old newspapers and tied with string). If you had maggots - which, of course we did at least once in the summer - the DPW guys would turn the garbage pail over. One of my least favorite chores as a kid was bleaching the garbage can and then hosing it down. 

We also burnt trash in a regularly replaced (because it had rusted away) metal barrel. And we paid the "can man" to come once a month and haul away bushel baskets (from our family's bushel-at-a-time apple purchases) full of cans and bottles. Our can man also ran an antique store of sorts. One man's trash is another man's treasure, I suppose, but I can't imagine that Archie L. found much that was antique-store worthy in the trash he collected in our neighborhood.

Old newspapers (the ones that weren't used for garbage disposal) and magazines were saved for when the Boy Scouts held a paper drive. My mother also saved every worn out towel, every no longer wearable shirt or nighty, to be used for cleaning rags. (Buttons were removed from any item that had buttons, and stored in the button box for later use.)

Sometimes, we went with my father to the Ballard Street Dump to throw things into the giant incinerator there. One of the scariest memories of my childhood was peering over the edge of the dump and looking down into the acrid, smoldering mound of trash there. (I remember thinking that this was probably what hell was like.) What trash we had that needed disposal in the incinerator, I can't recall. Maybe this was before we started using Archie L?

One thing I do know is that, back in the day, there was not as much trash being disposed of.

Sure, people littered (not my family: the only littering allowed was dropping an apple core out of the car window 'for the birds', and then only if we were riding around in the sticks, not the city) - something you don't see as much of anymore. But there was no fast food. Packaging was simpler. People didn't consume as much crap. And people didn't idly dispose of things when they got sick of them. Use it up, wear it out, give it away. 

But these days, there's a lot more trash, which enabled the Motzkins to build a fortune for themselves.

As I said, good for them. And they were apparently pretty good at it, with very few complaints lodged over the years.

Republic appears to be another story entirely. And I'm wondering what's going on there. Are people quitting because they're being maltreated by the new guys in town, who don't know them from Adam and couldn't care less? And, of course, the new guys in town may be new guys, but they aren't actually in town. They're in Arizona.

Tip O'Neil famously held that 'all politics is local.' So's all trash pick up.

Here's hoping Republic cleans up its act.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Shein off. Way off.

As someone whose fashion motto is "Never in style, never out of style," as someone who hangs onto clothing for years, I'm pretty much the antithesis of the fast fashion consumer. (Of course, it doesn't help that I'm old and certainly not the demographic that fast fashion targets.)

It's not that I don't buy clothing. I do. But it's focused in two categories.

Practical, day-today items that get replaced when they're worn out or too dreadful to wear out. The list here covers jeans, sweats, tee-shirts, turtlenecks, fleeces, socks, PJ's, undies and sneakers. (Et a few ceteras. It's not that I don't have a lot of clothing. I do. I wear fleeces all the time in winter, and I have three of the same sweater-fleece from LL Bean, in different colors.) It's just that when it comes to any of the above, my "style" - or lack there of - hasn't changed in decades. Most things in this category are from LL Bean or - for my fancy duds - are Eileen Fisher items found on a TJ Maxx "On the Runway" rack.)

I have a picture of myself and my sisters that was taken at a gathering at my sister Kath's shortly after my mother died, more than 20 years ago. We took the picture because, oddly, the three of us were all (completely coincidentally) wearing the same LL Bean capri pants and the same LL Bean checked shirts (different colors on the shirts: dark pink - T, light green - K, pale periwinkle - M). 

I still have - and I still wear - both of these items.

Of course, I can get away with hanging onto clothing forever because, since I do have a lot of clothing, things don't wear out all that fast. 

And when something doesn't wear out, I hang onto it. Unless I don't wear it for a year or two, in which case it gets donated. (If it's not good enough for donation, it goes into a city-sponsored recycle bin that takes clothing items and shoes.)

Cool, artsy sweaters, shirts, jackets, and dresses that I pay plenty for and keep forever. In 1989, my husband and I went to Berlin over New Year's to watch The Wall fall. We even helped chip away at it. For that trip, and to celebrate my 40th birthday, I'd gotten a pretty pricey and gorgeous black wool cardigan with a multi-colored pattern running through it. I've had elbow patches added, and each winter I find a few unraveling bits here and there, which I stitch up. But I'm determined that I'll still have that sweater when I'm ready for the grave. 

And that's not the only ancient sweater I still have. There's at least one - a purple sweater with pink intarsia flowers on it - that predates the Berlin Wall sweater. 

So, I'm not a fast fashion kind of gal, and never have been. 

But I get that, if you're young and stylish, fast fashion has a great deal of appeal.

There is, however, a colossal downside to being a fast fashionista.

Channel 4 in the UK recently aired a documentary on Shein which, at £14.5bn in annual revenues, may be the biggest purveyor of cheap, fashion-forward clothing on the Internet. 

Shein's model is to rip off designs they find trending, and quickly have knock-offs made in their sweatshops in China. 

So there's two not so good things going on here: stealing the designs of others and - far worse - running gruesome sweatshops.

Like any savvy brand, Shein outsources manufacture so, when the sweatshop factories are exposed, they can tut-tut and say that they're shocked, just shocked, that subcontractors are violating Shein policies. 

Going underground in two Shein supply factories, documentarians found that workers are putting in 18 hour work days and getting one day off a month. (Chinese law calls for a 40 hour work week, so do the math.) 

How much are Shein workers paid?

Workers are severely underpaid, with it being discovered that workers in one factory earned a base salary of 4,000 yuan (approximately £492) per month to make 500 pieces of clothing per day. If workers made a mistake on an item of clothing, they were penalised two-thirds of their daily wage. (Source: Glamour UK)
Shein markets aggressively - all online - and gives free merch to smaller TikTok and Instagram influencers in exchange for glorious reviews. Shein ads pop up everywhere, and given the number that I've seen fly by me, their algorithms aren't all that brilliant.

This is the Shein look. As you can see, this garment is not aimed at an LL Bean/Eileen Fisher shopper. And yet...

Of course, their strategy does work well enough to let Shein build a business worth billions. So what if their ad pops in front of the eyeballs of an occsional old lady non-customer?

Another downside of Shein's approach:

The brand has also been criticised for toxic chemicals, such as lead, PFAS and phthalates found in clothing, following an investigation conducted by Marketplace last year. 
Then there's the issue of flooding the market with disposable clothing that in many cases is so shoddy it can only be worn/washed once before it falls apart.

Shein claims to be "extremely concerned" about the issues the Channel 4 documentary brought forth. Code of Conduct. Blah. Blah. Blah. Non-compliance. Blah. Blah. Blah. We will investigate. Blah. Blah. Blah. 
The company has also launched a resale program, which they announced on the same day of Channel 4's documentary release. This environmentally friendly model with the Shein Exchange encourages shoppers to buy and sell previously owned products.

In promoting the Exchange, Shein's asking it's consumers to be "mindful consumers." 

Good luck with that.

But the truth is, we all need to be more mindful consumers. I, for one, must confess that I buy way too much stuff I don't need. (Seriously, three identical fleeces sweaters because I liked a new color each year?) Not to mention whether what I buy is all that ethically produced or environmentally sourced.

I'm hosting Thanksgiving this year, and thought I'd punch things up a bit with some new napkins. The ones I ordered from Wayfair are pretty, and they weren't all that cheap. 

They're in the washing machine now. I'm hoping to wash away at least some of whatever ghastly chemical they were treated with. And I'm sure the workers in the factory in India where they were made isn't exactly a paragon of good labor practice. At minimum, they exposed their workers to whatever chemicals I'm trying to wash away.

Maybe I need to take a non-consumption vow. Which I will any day now. Maybe once I order a new vacuum cleaner...

Friday, October 21, 2022

Almost over...

After a decades-long career in tech marketing and product management, working in corporations large and small, generally interesting and wildly dysfunctional, a quick commute or a drag to get to, I hung my shingle out and decided to do freelance marketing communications work. 

I was sick of managing, of politicking, of commuting. And I wanted to focus my work on the part of it I liked best: writing.

Sure, there were plenty of other things I'd rather have written about than how people use business applications or tech tools. Who wouldn't rather be Alice Munro or even Maureen Dowd? But if I were going to make a living at writing, it was certainly prudent to do what I knew I was good at, and that people would pay me to do.

So nearly twenty years ago, I decided to freelance.

While I say that I hung my shingle out, I never really did.

I never marketed myself or even had a website.

Mostly, I got the word out to a few former colleagues that I was around and about. And I had kiddingly always told the people in my group(s) that I hoped they'd all have successful careers so that they'd hire me when I wanted to get out of corporate. And that's what happened. I got hired (or introduced to their new companies) by folks who'd worked for me. And former peers, and an ex-boss or two, hired or recommended me. And, thus, I built a reasonably decent freelance writing career, doing everything from core positioning work to creating marketing plans to writing web copy, brochures, data sheets, customer stories, emails, ad copy, ebooks, white papers, contributed articles, blog posts, and tweets. 

I can't say that I loved every minute, but there were certainly aspects of my work that I did love.

I loved figuring out how to talk about products, technology, and markets that were new to me. I loved that I mostly got things right, and that people really liked my work.

I loved knowing that, when it came to the sorts of marketing writing I did for tech companies, I've never come across anyone who did it any better.

I took a lot of pride in my work.

Some clients I only did one or two projects for. Others I was with for years/decades.

I didn't love all my clients, and a couple I ferociously disliked. 

Firing a client can be exceedingly satisfactory, and one in particular - long story which I'll reserve for another time - I can still smile about when it comes to mind. At the time, after I'd told this ridiculous woman that I would finish up the project I was on but that was going to be it (here and no further), my husband told me, 'You know, she's going to come back and ask you to do more work for her.' And Jim was correct. A couple of months later, she had her assistant contact me and ask if I'd do another job. So I got the double satisfaction of telling her NO for a second time.

But mostly, I liked the folks I worked with, and as they changed companies, I often tagged along for the ride.

Over the course of those nearly twenty years, however, there have been only two companies that I could honestly say that I'd really have liked to work for.

And one, after more than a decade, has recently parted ways with me.

It's funny, I had regular, monthly work with them, but I'd been thinking of really winding down. But I liked the people, I liked the domain, I liked their customers. Working with them was easy.

I never raised my rates over the decade+ I worked with them, but the pay was still pretty decent. Over the years, my specialty for them had become helping to create "thought leader" blog posts published under the names of employees or their clients. And I had fun with it. 

And I liked having the money.

While for many years I did actually make a living with my writing, pretty much since I hit my mid-sixties, I've been winding down.

I haven't taken on any new clients. Haven't contacted any old ones to see if they had any writing needs. I've turned down clients and projects that I wasn't all that interested in - including some that, a few years earlier, I would have jumped at.

So for the last couple of years, the money I've made with my freelance work has pretty much been "nice to have," not "have to have."

And that "nice to have's" been plenty nice. Travel, gifts, political and charitable donations, something I wanted but didn't actually need. I've been able to do whatever I've wanted - within reason, of course - without thinking twice or worrying about whether my retirement account is up or down. (Gulp!)

But for the last year or so, I've been giving more and more thought to closing up shop entirely, and taking down the shingle that never really went up.

I'm down to just a few clients. And two of them have been the only companies I ever would have considered working at.

And one of those is no more.

I hadn't done any work for them since last spring, but summertime is usually light, so I didn't really notice (or care).

Fall rolled around, and my contact person there - someone I generally enjoyed working with (smart, funny, really good at her job) - shot me an email saying that she would be setting up a meeting soon to go over some things and update me on what was going on in her shop. (From here on out, let's just call her Samantha. Which is, of course, not her name.)

I knew that Samantha had a new boss. He had emailed me over the summer, letting me know that he wanted to Zoom meet. But he never followed up on his initial outreach to me. 


After over 40 years in the "space," none of this sounded all that promising. But whatever.

Then in early October, I went to login to my corporate account there - I've had one as a contractor since forever - and my credentials didn't work.

So I shot Samantha an email from my personal account and told her I was locked out, and that - although I didn't want my contracting days there to end quite yet (a white lie: I was getting to the point of not caring), I understood that they might be, and I just wanted to put a period at the end of a sentence.

Samantha got back to me right away, totally apologetic, and said that she thought my email address would be active through the remainder of the year. And that she had planned on talking with me soon. Then she said that, since I was asking so directly, the marketing department was going in a different direction. And I wouldn't be heading in that direction with them.

Well, no one likes to get fired, do they? The words "I quit" are a lot more satisfying. But having been on the giving and taking end of layoffs (and of letting contractors go), and having been involved in all sorts of reorgs and deorgs, I got it.

Earlier this week, Samantha and I met for lunch, and had a great time. She is the real deal and someone I enjoy, working with or just hanging with.

She briefed me on everything that was happening, including, sadly, the number of lay0ffs they'd had in her department. They let M go? Such a sweet person. Each year, for the department holiday party, she made boxes of cookies for everyone in the department, including the contractors. And they let K go? K is younger than I am, but not by all that much, and I'm pretty sure she wanted to hang in for a while longer. At her age, all she's going to run into is age discrimination. I thought of how talented she was at the detailed work that she did, how damned good she was at her job. There were other names on the list as well. Ugh.

The direction that the department was going with was pretty radical. In addition to laying personnel off, they had gotten rid of most of the contractors and agencies they'd been working with. They'd hung on to one freelancer, and they picked the right one to hang onto for the tasks they needed her for. (I would have made the same decision. I'm not going to say that this freelancer was a better writer than I am. I never thought she was. But she is a very good writer, and she has a particular genius for a certain type of writing that I am in absolute awe of.)

Anyway, all of a sudden, it looks like me career is almost over.

I have two clients. One is my original freelance client, and I write a blog for their company every two weeks. So, about two hours a month. (The work for the other company - the one that just gave me the boot - ranged from 10 to 30+ hours a month, probably averaging about 2o hours, so they've been my anchor tenant for a while.) I love the folks at my original freelance client company, and hope they keep using me. Until I just decide I'm ready to quit the game entirely.

The other remaining client, I haven't done any work for since the winter. They still have an open PO for more work this year, but, while I really like my contact at this company, I've never been all that interested in what the company does, and the projects have generally been boring. If they come back around, my answer is probably no thanks.

So, my brilliant career. It's almost over.

I'm still processing things, and it will take a while to really click in.

My volunteer work at present is pretty much at a fever pitch, so my being retired probably won't really seem real until January.

I guess there's no excuse now for not finishing up that novel...

But almost over. After all these years, it just seems weird to be so free of it all.

Meanwhile, do you suppose I should give myself a gold retirement watch?

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Eighteen years ago...

One of my earliest memories: I'm 2 and change and I'm toddling up to the family's black & white Philco, a good-sized piece of furniture with a tiny little screen. When I get to the TV, I try to pick one of they players off the screen.

It wasn't until I was well into my adulthood that I realized that my father must have told me to go up there and pick a runner off base. I can hear my father's voice now, "Go get him, Moe. Get that guy."

By the time I had my picking-the-guy-off-base epiphany, I could no longer get a confirmation from my father, who died when I was 21.

One thing he left me, though, was an abiding love of baseball in general, and the Red Sox in particular.

When I first began seriously following and rooting for the Red Sox, they were pretty awful. Yet they were my team. When the games were televised - weekends only - I was sitting there in the family room watching on a larger-screen but still b&w TV with my father. If it was a night game, broadcast on radio, I was sitting in the living room listening with my father on our piece-of-furniture radio that combined AM radio with a record player that played 78s and 45s, but not 33 LP albums, and had a cabinet that held old albums that were actually multi-disk albums that contained records like my mother's Nelson Eddy collection. (In the family room, we had a more modern stereo that played 33s, and it was there that I listened to (and memorized) the tracks of Broadway musicals like My Fair Lady, South Pacific, Oklahoma, and - still my favorite - West Side Story.)

When the game ran past bedtime, I was shooed off to bed. But my bedroom was just off the living room hall, and my nickname was "Radar Ears," so I kept listening until I drifted off to sleep.

I couldn't figure out why a team that had Ted Williams on it could be so terrible. After Ted retired - I got to see him play his last year - the Red Sox had Carl Yastrzemski. I couldn't figure out why a team that had Carl Yastrzemski on it could be so terrible, either.

And then, in 1967, the team that had Carl Yastrzemski on it wasn't so terrible, after all.

Mid-season, the team had picked up an infielder, Jerry Adair, who ended up contributing a lot during the Sox' pennant run. My father took a liking to Jerry Adair, and I can still hear him saying "When Adair is in there, the Red Sox are up there."

Well, when Adair was in there, our boys made it to the World Series.

It was quite exciting, especially as I was a freshman in college in Boston, living at the doorstep of Fenway Park.

When they won the pennant, all hell broke loose and, like every other college kid in Boston, I milled around for a while in Kenmore Square.

On the communal dorm TV, I watched six games of that World Series, but had the good sense not to watch the seventh game. Instead, I took a walk. The Red Sox lost to St. Louis in seven games, and thus began my unbroken streak-let of never watching the seventh game of the World Series if the Red Sox were in it.

In 1975 against Cincinnati. In 1986 against the Mets. I took to my bed. In 1975, I was living on a main drag, and could tell from the street noise - or lack thereof - that the Red Sox had fallen. In 1986, my husband watched in my stead, informing me when the game was over.

These were just the World Series big-swing-and-a-misses. There were too many almost, almost, almosts to count. (E.g., 1978, Bucky Fucking Dent, thank you very much. And Aaron Boone - those damned Yankees again - in 2003.)

And then there was 2004.

I liked this team. Pretty much everyone did. The team was funny, loose, tough, and had a good scrappy personality. Curt Schilling had not yet revealed his true, nasty self, so I even liked him.

But - here we go again - they were three games down to the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. And no team had ever come back from being down three games to zip.

I watched game three, which was a complete rout. 19-8.

Likable, maybe, but they sure did suck.

I decided to treat Game Four as if it were a World Series Game Seven and took to my bed. My husband checked in occasionally to report what was happening. I came out after Papi's dinger won the game in extras, even though it was well past my bedtime.

I did the same for Game Five, which went into even more extras than Game Four (14 vs. 12), and was again time for more David Ortiz heroics, this time a single that drove in the winning run.

For Game 6, I felt confident enough to watch. This was the Curt Schilling Bloody Sock game, in which Schilling pitched wounded. And won.

Game 7 was, to me, a foregone conclusion. Especially after Papi homered in the first, and Johnny Damon followed it up with a grand slam in the second.

That was 18 years ago tonight.

I don't remember if I called my sister Trish, or she called me. I do remember crying on the phone with her.

The World Series win - in four games, to St. Louis - was another foregone conclusion.

There was no way the Red Sox were going to lose after that brilliant ALCS comeback.

And there wasn't.

Sox in four games.

I went up to the State House for some celebration. A number of the team members were there. Manny Ramirez. Jason Varitek. I think they played Dirty Water, but I know that the Dropkick Murphy were there, and they played Tessie, which had become another Red Sox anthem during the 2004 season.

I missed the parade. I was knocking on doors for John Kerry up in New Hampshire. Kerry lost the presidency, but he did win NH by a narrow margin, no doubt thanks to my door-knocking.

The Red Sox had a pretty miserable year, but it's hard to complain, given that, since that amazingly wonderful 2004 season, they've gifted us with four World Series wins (2004, 2007, 2013, 2018).

None quite as amazingly wonderful as that ALCS win against the Yankees.

I watched a video of the highlights of that series the other night.

Still teared up. Baseball's like that. (So are ancient daughters whose fathers taught them to love the game.)

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Hey, Howard Schultz, how about you stick a venti caffè latte in it

Not a big coffee drinker here. But if and when I do drink coffee, it's probably going to be iced. And it's probably doing to be Dunkin's. 

Still, someone who remembers when Starbucks first began creeping into the East - i.e., a world in which Starbucks wasn't on every corner, a world in which Starbucks wasn't a cultural signifier, a meme - I can't help but sit in awe at how the business grew to become a presence on every corner, a cultural signifier, a meme

And much of the credit for building the business goes to Howard Schultz. 

Schultz may not have been the founder, but he was the builder. And Howard the Builder became a billionaire in the process. 

So good for him. Up to a point. Or up until two points.

The first up to a point came when Schultz began toying with a run for president.

Personally, while some folks think it's a good thing, I'm not a big fan of those who have no experience in the political world making their first foray into politics by running for a high office. The skills someone hones by building/running a business are not all that generalizable to governing. Admittedly, he's a bad example, as Trump was never a successful businessman to begin with, plus he's a supremely disordered and outstandingly ignorant individual, but look no further than the disastrous presidency of DJT to see that business skills, actual or presumed, don't translate into running, say, a country.

Personally, I want people in the Oval Office who know what the three branches of government are and how they work. Who have experience building coalitions, twisting arms, and whatever the modern-day equivalent of kissing babies is. Who know and care where Tajikistan is and why Tajikistan matters. Who know what NATO stands for (in words), and what NATO stands for (in action). 

I understand that all business people who seek the presidency won't be as abysmally ignorant and evil as Trump, still, I think that business people, not to mention celebrities, if they want to get into politics, should run for a less powerful office first. Like state rep, or school committee.

So I didn't appreciate Howard Schultz making "Me for President" noises.

The second up to point: Howard Schultz boo-hooing all over the place because many Starbucks stores are trying (and some succeeding) to unionize. 

Yes, I know that, when compared to many other crappy jobs, Starbucks is better in terms of benefits, like health insurance, educational assistance, stock purchase. But many employees, the ones making the venti caffè lattes in the ubiquitous stores, still feel that they're treated like crap, and they want better working conditions. So they're unionizing. 

Which is an absolute four-letter word to Howard Schultz.
To Schultz, the unionization drive felt like an attack on his life’s work. In previous speeches to his employees, he had cast the union as “a group trying to take our people,” an “outside force that’s trying desperately to disrupt our company” and “an adversary that’s threatening the very essence of what [we] believe to be true.” (Source: Washington Post)

Schultz, who had stepped away from Starbucks, is now back with a charter - a highly personal charter - to kill unionization efforts, efforts that he kicked off with a cross-country listening tour. 

“I need to hear everything,” Schultz began a session in San Jose, “as much as you can share.”

Everything, Howard? Maybe not everything everything. ("Pro-union workers...weren’t invited to any of his listening sessions.") 

Baristas told him that they weren’t making enough money to pay their bills. They complained about equipment that had been broken for weeks, understaffed stores, insufficient training and supply chain snarls.
Not to mention customers who are "angrier, more aggressive and demanding." And homeless folks and addicts hanging out in their stores, making things uncomfortable for employees. (Trust me, I get this. I volunteer in a homeless shelter, and, while most of the guests are fine, I'm very happy to be surrounded by security, social workers, and Narcan.)

Anyway, Schultz, apparently, just doesn't understand how employees of a benevolent company like Starbucks, the very model of enlightened capitalism, would want to unionize. 
“I’ve never met a businessman like him,” said Richard Bensinger, a longtime organizer who was working with the  Starbucks baristas. “He hates unions more than he loves money.”

Among other Starbucks responses to unionization efforts: cut the hours of organizers, refuse pay raises in stores where there were unionization efforts, and in some cases fire employees. (In at least one case, a federal judge ordered some fired employees reinstated.) Schultz denies that anyone was fired for organizing other than, maybe, outside agitators brought in to make trouble. Not bona fide Starbuckians.

...To Schultz, unions existed to protect workers from bad companies, like the ones who had abused his father [a NYC cab driver]. “That’s why unions were created,” he said in an interview. A union had no place at a company that cared about its workers like Starbucks, Schultz believed. It would pit employees against their bosses, turning partners into adversaries.

It was “anathema,” he said, to the culture of shared success that he had sought to build over the course of decades, and he was determined to stop it.
Schultz is going all out to prevent employees from unionizing, promising (and delivering) all sorts of benefits in stores that aren't unionizing - better pay, better hours.
“There’s a word that’s not used very often in business, and the word is ‘love,’ ” Schultz said. “I spent my life at Starbucks, and my love for the company — my responsibility to our partners [i.e., employees] — is at the highest level possible.”

Hey, Howard Schultz, how about showing a bit of that love to the employees who would like to be part of a union. Rather than virulently opposing their efforts, and pitting "good" (accept what we give you) vs. "bad" (pro-union) employees against each other, why not do a sit down with them and see what it is that your employees want that they're not getting from your company, however benevolent and loving it is?

It may turn Starbucks into an even better and more benevolent company. It may even turn out to cost the company less in the long run. 

And if you're not willing to figure out how to co-exist with a union, as far as I'm concerned, Howard, as admirable as your personal journey and success have been, you can just stick a venti caffè latte in it. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Con man or inspiring visionary? The jury's in on Trevor Milton.

The daughter of the family who lived next door while I was growing up dated (and later married) a truck driver. When he visited, Bob would park the cab of his semi on the street outside
the bedroom I shared with my sister. The cab apparently took a while to warm up, so before he left, Bob would start the cab up and head back into the house for a while. We were often woken up at 2 or 3 a.m. by the noisy engine of Bob's cab warming up outside our window. 

My only other big rig experience was hitchhiking in my twenties, and occasionally getting picked up by a truck.

So what I know about 18-wheelers is that - even if we're just talking about the cab - they're plenty noisy.

One of the ancillary benefits of the move to electric-powered trucks is that they'll be quieter than big rigs o' yore.

Mostly, of course, I know nothing about EV trucks, other than vaguely thinking that Elon Musk has something to do with them. If that is, in fact, the case, he's not the only hustler involved with this industry. 

That's because there's Trevor Milton out there. And he's not just an amateur hustler. He's a convicted hustler. 
The wealthy founder of Nikola Corp. was convicted Friday of charges he deceived investors with exaggerated claims about his company’s progress in producing zero-emission 18-wheel trucks fueled by electricity or hydrogen.

...prosecutors alleged that Nikola — founded by Milton in a Utah basement six years ago — falsely claimed to have built its own revolutionary truck that was actually a General Motors Corp. product with Nikola’s logo stamped onto it. There also was evidence that the company produced videos of its trucks that were doctored to hide their flaws. (Source: Boston Globe)

Milton was forced out of Nikola a couple of years ago, but the current CEO was called as a government witness and said on the stand that Milton "was prone to exaggeration" when making his pitch to investors. Is that CEO for "lies through his teeth?"

Although Trevor Milton is no longer truckin' like the doo-dah man, I still thought it would be interesting to motor on over to Nikola and see how the company positions itself. Here's what they're about. 
Disrupt and innovate. Constantly pursue progression and improvement. Push yourself and others to think broadly, go further and achieve more.

Work quickly and get things done. Value simplicity and cut red tape. Take risks and learn from mistakes.

Safety, quality, integrity and attitude. Take personal behavior seriously and put the success of the team above your own. Think about how your work affects others.

Treat the company and its resources as if they’re your own. Trust other’s capabilities. Understand that as the organization succeeds, you succeed.
Pretty standard corporate blather. 

It does, I must admit, make me happy that I'm pretty much out of the game, and will never, ever, ever again in my life have to sit down and "craft" a mission, vision, or 'who we are' statement.

But looking through those words, I'm going to venture that Trevor Milton pushed himself a tad bit too broadly. And that he focused more on attitude than he did on integrity.

In any case, it's no surprise that Milton's lawyer has said that they will appeal. Marc Mukasey maintains that his client is not the con man the prosecutors had painted a picture of but is, rather, an "inspiring visionary."

I could not help but google/notice that Marc Mukasey has been an attorney for the Trump Organization. And for Matt Gaetz. 

Then there's Milton himself, who has a somewhat sketchy background. Including a credible allegation that, as a teenager (he was 18) he sexually assaulted his cousin (she was 15) at their grandfather's funeral. 

Hmmmm. Not to hard to figure out whose side I'm on in this one. 

Anyway, Milton will be sentenced in January. 

Meanwhile, much as I wouldn't mind having some of those years back, I'm just happy that I don't have to worry about good old Bob waking me up as he turned the ignition on his noisy semi-cab. And I'll be happier still when the EV trucks are perfected.