Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

I Wish I Could Blog

I've had a number of things rolling around in my head to blog about, but the opportunity hasn't been there. Norah and Michelle keep me busy and free time is quickly devoted to outdoor activities (read: fishing) leaving little or no time to blog. Here is the stuff I wish I had time to post about:
  • "Cletus, Take the Reel", a hilarious reprisal of Carrie Underwood's "Jesus, Take the Wheel".
  • Hanes Brands' environmental and human rights record. No sooner had I passed judgement and posted the Hanes post than they emailed me back with more details. I really need to get the updated info up there.
  • My disenchantment with both major US political parties. Recently, the reasons I'm in favor of less government and more personal responsibility have been resurfacing. Too bad the GOP has such an awful environmental record and too bad the Dems will inevitably increase the size of government. Big brother's not the answer. Sigh. I stand by my choice of hope, diplomacy, and environmentalism even if it comes with big government. It's not a perfect world I guess.
I think that's it for now. I'm also trying to find time to post some pictures on Flickr from the Tulip Festival. Very fun!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Brand Impressions - Hanes

Recently I bought a package of Hanes T-shirts at my local Target. The tag indicated they were made in Honduras.

I sent an email to Hanes asking about both environmental and human rights issues. I mentioned that their response would go a long way to shaping my impression of their brand. Unfortunately, that was over a week ago and I still haven't heard anything. I also checked their website - no mention of an environmental, human rights, community involvement or any other type of corporate responsibility program or policy. Unfortunately, no information doesn't equal no message.

In the last few years, my buying habits have changed and I've begun taking into consideration:
  • where products are manufactured;
  • the amount and recycle-ability of packaging;
  • my perception of the brand's environmental conscientiousness; and
  • my perception of the brand's human rights impacts.
The last two are almost purely conjecture based on what I see on the product packaging, and my perceptions of what environmental and human rights conditions exist in the country where the item was produced. Relying on my own perceptions leaves plenty of room for incorrect assumptions. I had hoped that brands like Hanes could give me some real information to accurately shape my perspective of the brand. Alas, I'm left to assume the worst about Hanes and their products.

It's a shame, because the shirts are really nice. Guess I'll try Fruit of the Loom next time.

Living with Open Hands

"The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same."

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Big Bonus = Poor Performance

-- NOTE: Post taken from The Smart Supervisor, a blog for front line supervisors --

Yesterday on Marketplace I heard some fascinating new research that shows excessively large bonuses are associated with poorer performance. The researcher noted that higher at-risk compensation motivates us (the desired effect) but also acts as a stressor (an undesirable effect). At a certain point, huge bonuses create more stress than motivation resulting in poorer performance.

This research adds to a growing body of empirical evidence supporting what smart supervisors have known all along: people don't leave, stay, or work hard because of money. Employees are retained and motivated by the vision the leader casts, the accountability the leader creates, the responsibility the leader gives, and the empowerment the employees feel. We are entering a period of time in which soft skills will be far more critical than hard skills. Or as Tom Peters puts it, "'soft' is the new 'hard'". So work on your soft skills, especially listening and communicating.

Check out the full Marketplace report. The researcher sounds a bit like Dr. Nick on the Simpsons.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Misconceptions of Cleanliness

I would like to dispel a common misconception about cleanliness which has unnecessary environmental and health impacts. We are inclined to associate the color white with cleanliness. Now, initially that seems fairly innocent. However, this misconception leads to the bleaching of nearly all paper products, from paper plates to toilet paper to diapers. And this otherwise unnecessary bleaching process produces some very harsh chemicals as by-products. Not the least of these is Dioxin, or polychlorinated dibenzodioxins to be exact, which cause birth defects, cancer (you knew that was coming) and other ailments. The worst part about these chemicals is that they build up quickly in the food chain and they aren't naturally metabolized. A large portion of the dioxin produced and released into the environment is used only to satisfy (and perpetuate?) our inaccurate misconception that white = clean.

Many of our activities cause environmental damage. Driving around in my '93 Honda releases all kinds of terrible stuff; but at least I get the clear benefit of fast, convenient travel in exchange. The "benefit" of having our paper stuff artificially colored white doesn't seem worth the environmental impact it creates.

Other misconceptions in a similar vein often lead to inaccurate judgments. For example, deformed/dark/black = evil and beautiful/proportionate = good (reality TV should have dispelled this one). There are others, I imagine.

Anyhow, all that to say maybe part of going green is going brown.

The English Patient

Some time ago I picked up a copy of Michael Ondaajte's book The English Patient. I was inspired to pull it off the shelf after a recommendation from Malcolm Kenyon. I'm only a few pages in, but I remember why I so liked Ondaajte's In the Skin of a Lion, which I read in college. He has a powerful way of making me feel. His gift is not in creating the emotional feelings like sad, or angry, or happy; he can make me feel a desert, make me feel exhaustion, make me feel delirium. Many authors can describe buildings, rooms, gardens, relationships, accidents, and injuries. Few can make me feel them. Ondaajte is one of the few.

I mentioned Malcolm recommended The English Patient to me; he is quite the guy himself. He works with Michelle teaching English as a second language here in Bellingham, and he's a poet among a great host of other things. We had a chapbook of his poetry on our bookshelf (I am proud to say, meager though they are, my bookshelves hold untold treasurers!). He is a very gifted poet and a fascinating person to listen to. You can hear him reading some of his poems at poetry night in Bellingham by going to poetry night's podcast site. Two of Malcolm's readings are about a quarter of the way down the page.