Failure to Communicate

My children’s teachers send notes home with the textbooks asking for my estimation of their books in several categories. The Wife was visibly relieved when I quickly volunteered to review, comment and sign on the 53 different forms brought home by the seven enrolled there. Now I suspect she intercepts the children before they bring the books to me. Here’s why:

I know that what the teachers want is my assessment of the physical condition of the book so that when my kid drops it in the kitty litter, runs over it with his bike, spills Ramen on it, leaves it at soccer practice when it starts raining, uses a corndog as a bookmark, or allows #11 to use it to write the one word he knows in 37 different crayon colors and then seal his work with his unique “day old chocolate milk” mark, that I’ll be on the hook for it’s degradation from “fair with binding that appears to have propped open the garage door in three different families” to “are you kidding me?”.

However, I use the forms to send my feedback on the curriculum itself. I comment on science books that teach modernist theories contrary to the Catholic faith, math books that fail to explain the theory of “zero” or “infinity”, or history books that regurgitate Yankee propaganda about the War of Northern Aggression. My expectations are not unreasonable; it’s not like I expect them to explain to 8th graders the travesty of the 17th Amendment, … Read the rest

My children’s teachers send notes home with the textbooks asking for my estimation of their books in several categories. The Wife was visibly relieved when I quickly volunteered to review, comment and sign on the 53 different forms brought home by the seven enrolled there. Now I suspect she intercepts the children before they bring the books to me. Here’s why:

I know that what the teachers want is my assessment of the physical condition of the book so that when my kid drops it in the kitty litter, runs over it with his bike, spills Ramen on it, leaves it at soccer practice when it starts raining, uses a corndog as a bookmark, or allows #11 to use it to write the one word he knows in 37 different crayon colors and then seal his work with his unique “day old chocolate milk” mark, that I’ll be on the hook for it’s degradation from “fair with binding that appears to have propped open the garage door in three different families” to “are you kidding me?”.

However, I use the forms to send my feedback on the curriculum itself. I comment on science books that teach modernist theories contrary to the Catholic faith, math books that fail to explain the theory of “zero” or “infinity”, or history books that regurgitate Yankee propaganda about the War of Northern Aggression. My expectations are not unreasonable; it’s not like I expect them to explain to 8th graders the travesty of the 17th Amendment, … Read the rest

How to Kill Your Brand Cheaply and Quickly

In the study of God there is something known as “negative theology”, by which people learn about the divine through a definition of what God is not.  It sounds strange, but is illustrative.  Similarly, I think we can learn a great deal about business by learning what NOT to do.

I recently flew United Airlines and had a terrible experience. While my first flight from Nashville to Chicago left on time and was pleasant, at least as much as it can be on a puddle jumper with a Duck Dynasty wannabe in the row behind me who spoke loud enough to demonstrate his arrogance and ignorance to everyone from row 21 to 10, my connecting flight was delayed five times-for a total of 4 1/2 hours.

Every 45 minutes the status was updated, as if the airline just couldn’t figure out what was going on (“Do we have airplanes? Do we have people who can fly them?”), and while the delay was a minor inconvenience, the manner in which United treats passengers is a textbook lesson in how NOT to interact with the public (and a great learning experience for marketers or PR personnel who want to know how to excel in business).

First, there was no communication from the airline; the passengers in the know (like me), got updates from the booking agency via text or email, long before gate attendants (had they been present) had information.

Secondly, the airline made no attempt (even half-hearted) at apology.  A simple … Read the rest

In the study of God there is something known as “negative theology”, by which people learn about the divine through a definition of what God is not.  It sounds strange, but is illustrative.  Similarly, I think we can learn a great deal about business by learning what NOT to do.

I recently flew United Airlines and had a terrible experience. While my first flight from Nashville to Chicago left on time and was pleasant, at least as much as it can be on a puddle jumper with a Duck Dynasty wannabe in the row behind me who spoke loud enough to demonstrate his arrogance and ignorance to everyone from row 21 to 10, my connecting flight was delayed five times-for a total of 4 1/2 hours.

Every 45 minutes the status was updated, as if the airline just couldn’t figure out what was going on (“Do we have airplanes? Do we have people who can fly them?”), and while the delay was a minor inconvenience, the manner in which United treats passengers is a textbook lesson in how NOT to interact with the public (and a great learning experience for marketers or PR personnel who want to know how to excel in business).

First, there was no communication from the airline; the passengers in the know (like me), got updates from the booking agency via text or email, long before gate attendants (had they been present) had information.

Secondly, the airline made no attempt (even half-hearted) at apology.  A simple … Read the rest

Life in Autismland

My ninth son, Jude Christopher, is three years old and mildly  autistic.  He says only one word and he says it repeatedly and very well; “No”.  He likes to spend most of the time alone, he gets angry often and for no easily discernible cause, and his fits of rage are as unpredictable as they are uncontrollable.  He needs very little sleep.  It is a challenge for any parent and no easier if you’ve raised 10 other “normal” children.

His Mother does not like that I tell people he is autistic.  She likes to say that he is ‘on the spectrum’.  I find this is the way moms and professionals dull the diagnosis.  It is true that not all autistic kids are the same, and at three years of age, he doesn’t suffer from some of the same burdens others do.  She prays for a miracle but takes him to therapy twice a week and hopes to have him in a tailored program soon.  I pray for a miracle but am prepared for a different life for and with him.

IMG_20140728_194822 (1)

Neither Doctors nor parents really understand autism.  It is particularly difficult to understand because those who suffer from it usually have great difficulty communicating.  Many do not communicate at all.  They cannot explain what they do understand and don’t, what is hurting them or bothering them, what they need or want.  Human touch is often bothersome.  Ordinary acts of kindness or intimacy might be irritating.  Vocal or physical outbursts may … Read the rest