Navigating Schools into Unchartered Territory

Betsy DeVos could be the most damaging cabinet member from the Trump administration.  In times where the United States cannot afford to fall behind in education, DeVos might be digging the United States educational system into an even deeper hole; maybe even a grave.  One of DeVos’ most destructive forces is her push for Charter Schools.

 Charter schools are funded by taxpayer money but are run like private schools.  This means that public money is being funneled out of the traditional public schools and being put into charter schools where that money could be turned into profits.  Charter schools don’t even need to report how they spend the money if they hire a private business to deal with the finances.  In multiple instances, charter schools in Texas paid a private company 95% of the money they received from state and federal taxes.  Therefore, the business did not need to provide the public with what they do with that money.  Charter schools do not need to have the same level of transparency as a public entity, such as a traditional public school.  And this is all entirely legal.  

 The General Chappie James Leadership Academy, an Ohio charter school, the administrators falsely claimed they had 459 students enrolled in the school.  State auditor Dave Yost found that only 30 kids were attending the school daily.  The General Chappie James Leadership Academy school received one million dollars in additional funding from the state and federal government because they lied about their enrollment.  Since regulations like this are so lax, this is happening all around the country.  These are not case studies.  The Akron Beacon Journal which studied how public money is spent found, “charter schools misspend public money nearly four times often than any other type of taxpayer agency.”  It should be quite obvious at this point that charter schools need more regulation and that is not going to happen under secretary DeVos.  

 Charter schools are not the answer to any of our educational problems; instead they are a problem that will drain resources out of traditional public schools.  DeVos claims that parents should have a choice of what educational institution they want their child to attend.  However, charter schools don’t offer an option for everyone.    Some charter schools are elitist groups that can deny any student for any reason.  These elite charters can deny a student if they have a special education need; typically these students will do poor on standardized tests.  This is called “cherry-picking.”   Charter s will pick the best performing students, enhancing their own performance and crippling the performance of the public school.  This gives the false sense that charter schools are performing well and public schools are failing.

In some cases where cherry-picking is happening, the public schools still outperformed the charter schools even though they had taken the best students! How does that happen?  Teachers.  Some states such as Texas, Arizona, and Louisiana have no requirements for the teachers they hire in a charter school.  They can hire any person with any qualifications, while public schools can only hire certified teachers who went through proper training.  When you take a group of great students and put them with unqualified teachers, the students do not perform well.  When you put mediocre students with great teachers, you turn mediocracy into quality.  

 Not all charters will behave this way.  Some charters open with the intention of taking on high needs students and attempting to hire great teachers.  However, these schools still fail to reach out to the parents of children who are the highest risk. Parents who don’t take an interest in their child’s education are the ones who typically have the highest needs.  Since these parents do not take an interest in their child’s education, they are unlikely to enroll them in charter schools leaving them to stay in traditional public schools.  When making comparisons between charters and traditional public schools, the traditional public schools will have the highest needs students, always.  

 There are some charter schools that will perform better than their public school counterpart.  Some charter schools are even doing better with English Language Learners (These are students whose primary language is not English) .  But remember the type of parent that is likely to enroll these children: they cared about their child’s education, meaning they were most likely going to succeed regardless of the educational institution they were placed in. This gives advocates of charter schools the ammunition they need, but of course some are going to do better.  It is statistically inevitable.  However, the vast majority are not performing any better even with so many being as corrupt and immoral as they are.

Since DeVos main push is school choice, she also wants to have online charter schools as an option for parents.  I’ll sign off with this finding from the Washington Post about online charter schools that says, “Students in online charters lost an average of 180 days of learning in math during a 180 day school year.”  You do the math.

Donald Trump is a Coward and the GOP are Soulless Cunts

I was trying to think of ways to cleverly sugar coat this post and not be so blatant in the title, but fuck it. The time for discretion is long past since we now have a pathological liar in chief wandering the White House in his robe. Plus, I’ve learned the best way to communicate is to be as straight up as possible, hence Donald Trump is a coward and the GOP are soulless cunts.

Let’s start with the GOP being the soulless cunts that they are, because why not. Betsy DeVos, the controversial cabinet pick for the Secretary of Education, bought her position. Some may argue they like her ideas for boosting market based education and charter and private schools, and that would be a fair argument if she was not an incompetent moron. I’d link you to the countless videos and articles displaying her incompetence while being confirmed, but you have all seen them by now (or chose not to watch because you are a goddamn sheep of a human being, believing anything and everything the GOP will throw your way). But that did not matter, all that matters is that she has donated nearly $200 million dollars to GOP campaigns over the last 30 years, using money she inherited from her father, the creator of one of the biggest pyramid schemes in American history. Every GOP senator that voted for DeVos voted out of obligation because of campaign contributions, not at all based on merit and this makes them soulless cunts. The GOP preaches hard work will help you earn the “American Dream”, but really they’re saying you can also inherit lots of cash from shady business practices and buy the American Dream right from the United States government. Soulless cunts.

Now, Donald Trump being a coward. Muslim terrorists are scary, so let’s combat them by keeping all Muslims out of the United States (you know, the “ban” that’s not a ban, the one federal courts keep blocking). This absolutely makes Donald Trump a coward. 22% of the world’s population is Muslim, and 99.99999999% of them are not terrorists. I realize that people brought up in predominately Muslim countries are taught to hate Americans from a very early age and to not tolerate any religion other than Islam, but this is not a good reason to keep Muslims out of the United States. If anything it is reason to invite more in. The United States is home to the most tolerant laws in the world, where people are (supposed to) free from prosecution based on beliefs and religion. The right road to fixing the problem of extremist terrorism is to fight those involved in murderous ways overseas and welcome all those who are interested in our freedom into our country. I know it sounds scary, but doing the heroic thing can be scary, that’s why it is the heroic option. The Trump (Bannon) plan of waging war on Islam is not only the wrong path, it will be judged harshly by history, and Trump will go down as the biggest coward to hold office. And not to mention that this policy is a sure fire way of pissing off Muslims around the world, increasing the risk for future terror attacks and starting new conflicts / wars as well.

Finally, though this was not mentioned in the title of the post, let’s also be clear about another thing; Donald Trump is a fucking moron. Yes, I know it is shocking to hear and might come as a surprise, but alas I must pull the curtains so that you can see the truth, and that truth is that Donald Trump is not just a coward, but a fucking moron as well. Donald Trump’s ideas of creating a bigger United States economy is to shut out immigrant workers contributing to the high United States production value, as well as raise taxes on imported goods. Think about this – Trump wants to lower production by getting fewer qualified workers into the United States for industries that are hurting to find qualified people (medical, tech, etc), not to mention keep out real low-skilled labor for jobs most Americans are not willing to do (farming), and then increase the prices on all goods that come from overseas, all in the name of “job growth”. Well, brilliant. Now we’ll either have lots of empty seats for skilled labor, or unqualified people performing those jobs (lower production in either case). And as far the low skill jobs, employers will have to pay more just to get people to work those jobs, which will increase the prices in those specific markets, which will counter the tariffs imposed on the competition from overseas. These plans will most certainly lower the GDP of America, giving China the fast track option to be the clear production leader in the world, and shorten the gap between us and countries like Russia and India.

The only shining light here is the fact that most of the soulless cunts in Congress and in the Senate know this about the economy, and won’t let Trump get too far with it. Trust me when I say the soulless cunts won’t block such extreme “jobs creation” policies because it’s the right thing to do, but are simply doing it because their campaign contributions are all coming from people who would be hurt the most by a shrinking United States economy. Thus they get to keep the title of soulless cunts for at least another 2 to 4 years. And Donald Trump will continue being the fucking moron coward that he is, until we’re lucky enough that he breaks a law, gets impeached, so we could be left with our soulless cunt of a VP as president.

The Pro-Life Paradox

Yesterday marked the annual “March for Life” in Washington D.C. Pro-Life proponents were thrilled that the current administration’s vice president came out in support of the march for the first time in its history. While they have every right to march (thanks, 1st amendment!), and their message is received, their argument is half-baked. Signs at the march showed demonstrators were there to “speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves” and they believe the unborn is a “child not a choice”. These sound like decent arguments, however; who will be the voice for these unborn while they are gestating and ultimately, born?

Pregnancy. I am a mother of two – I hated pregnancy. I had relatively uncomplicated pregnancies and still, I’m firmly in the “love my kids, hated being pregnant” camp. Some women love it, the good Lord bless their hearts. That being said, I planned my pregnancies, wanted to be pregnant and still hated it. Take a woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant, did not plan on becoming pregnant, and give them no option other than to carry that child. If you think these women are going to see the proverbial light and eat properly, seek proper medical care, take prenatal vitamins, and properly care for that unplanned/unwanted child, you are deluding yourself. I’m sure that can and does happen, but for many women, that is not a reality. Complicate the matter with poverty, substance abuse/addictions, abusive relationships, etc., and you have a recipe for disaster. Forcing a woman into pregnancy by “speaking for those who don’t have a voice” is destructive in the long run. Will you be their “voice” when they are born premature, addicted to drugs, sick, with birth defects, and/or into poverty? Will you be their “voice” if they are sent to abusive foster care homes? And yes, I fully realize adoption is always an option, but again, you may be forcing women who cannot take care of themselves to take care of themselves plus a gestating child. Unrealistic.

Mothers. Assuming the mother has an easy, breezy pregnancy, there will still be the matter of giving birth. How will these women be expected to pay their bills when they give birth and have to miss work since paid maternity leave isn’t a reality for many? If the pregnancy becomes complicated or high risk, who will speak for the mothers who are now sick or bedridden with this child? And be certain, those are best-case scenarios for some. Who will speak for the unborn terminated by way of home abortion or forced miscarriage if women lose access to safe abortions? Will you speak for the pain and misery suffered by the unborn in those scenarios? Will you be there to care for and comfort the mothers who maim themselves, or for families who lose a loved one from a home abortion gone wrong? Would you show sympathy and empathy for that strong woman who didn’t abort that child you marched to save?

Some pro-life supporters argue “just practice abstinence if you can’t support a child or don’t want to be pregnant!”. By that logic, “just put down that cupcake and you won’t need to lose 5 pounds”, or “just put down that cigarette and you won’t need to worry about being addicted”. That logic isn’t going to work, and it has been proven. The pro-life argument is understandable, and it does show great compassion for unborn children who had no choice in being conceived and have no say in whether they are to be born or not. It’s heart-wrenching. Unfortunately, life is not that simple. People need education, access to health care, and contraceptives. You can’t make a sweep of everything you don’t like and expect everyone to fall in line with your beliefs. That has never worked in society and it never will. Just ask Texas how that is working out for them.

Just as many pro-life supporters declared that the women in last weekend’s march “didn’t speak for them”, don’t speak for all women and for the unborn. Speak for humanity. “Your voice” is worthless and useless to a child born into a situation where they cannot be supported financially, emotionally, or humanely. You are narrow-minded and self-important if you think saving an unborn from abortion is heroic. Unless you plan on spending a lot more in taxes to fund good foster programs, good adoption programs, social food and welfare programs, and education reform, you need to sit down and re-evaluate.

Steve Bannon is a Fat Piece of Shit

Yeah, this guy

I don’t normally like to be so harsh on people, but since I’m nearly positive Bannon is Joseph Goebbels reincarnate, I’m going to make an exception.

Steve Bannon is an ex-Wall Street guy, which in some circles automatically makes him a “bad guy”, but I wouldn’t judge him too hard there – Wall Street employs hundreds of thousands of people both good and bad. He has an alleged history of anti-Semiticism, but even that to seems like a far stretch given the pro-Isreal nature of Breitbart, as well as some in his close circle being Jewish.

Instead, Steve Bannon is first and foremost a fat piece of shit because of his status with Breitbart. Rather than paste a list of examples that make Breitbart a shitty aggregator of hateful posts, Huff-Po already has done that dirty work. Worse than this is the personal views of how Bannon sees the world, which was wonderfully transcribed by Buzz Feed back in November. It’s long, so I’ll give you some of the highlights:

  • The world needs more Judeo-Christian values in government because the world is in crisis.
  • “I certainly think secularism has sapped the strength of the Judeo-Christian West to defend its ideals” – while answering a question about the state of Islam, by the way
  • He sees Putin’s use of Russian nationalism as a model of good governance that the US should follow (though he does mention Russia’s model of state-capitalism as its shortcomings)
  • Opens his speech by talking about it being 100 years since the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and how that sparked World War I, but completely fails to recognize the incredibly high tensions of the world at that time because of hyperbolic nationalism throughout all of Europe.

He also talks a lot about crony capitalism in the US being a shitty thing, which I happen to agree with. But before he even steps into the Oval Office with Trump, his administration brokers a deal with United Technologies in Iowa by giving them $7 million in tax breaks to save fewer than 1000 jobs that will eventually be replaced by robots. And most recently, he continued his very calculated battle against the “main stream media” by saying in an interview that the media needs to keep its mouth shut because it doesn’t understand the US as much as Trump and Bannon do, because if they did they would have been able to predict Trump’s election. I’m guessing Bannon is an alternate fact type guy and believes Trump would have won the popular vote as well if it hadn’t been for those pesky imaginary illegal voters, because otherwise he would understand the majority of the country is not on his side.

Fuck off you fat piece of shit. Period.

Thoughts from a Former Republican

I grew up in a conservative Republican household. When I was old enough to vote, I eagerly and proudly registered as a Republican. I watched Fox News (admittedly when most other peers my age were watching MTV…if that gives you any indication of my personality). I graduated with a degree in Political Science with a concentration in Political Economy and a minor in History. I bought and devoured Sean Hannity’s books. When real life came knocking and I needed a job, I strayed from politics and headed down a completely different path. Now age, life experiences, and most significantly, this election, have all changed my perspective drastically. I have watched an entire political party fall to pieces and form a divide. I am now a “blank”; I belong to no party. The party system has clearly led us down a divisive and destructive path and I cannot align myself one way or another. So, to that end I offer you some thoughts from a former conservative Republican:

Be better. Stop calling protesters, Democrats, Liberals, and Trump detractors names such as “snowflakes” and “whiny babies”. It’s not constructive and it’s below how you want to be represented. Just as some Republicans supported those who formed the Tea Party and protested, just as some supported those who protested and marched against Obama, these people demonstrating now want to be heard. Calling people names, telling them to “deal with” the fact Donald Trump is their president, and not listening or showing empathy makes you no better than those you dislike. Similarly, it’s completely unhelpful to mock or put down Trump dissenters and protesters as being “dramatic”, or say you don’t understand why they and/or their kids are scared. Turn your thinking around; why AREN’T you? Do you feel comfortable with the President’s stances on immigration, the economy, abortion, etc.? If so, great, but not all do. Put yourself in the shoes of a Muslim or immigrant family. Put yourself in the shoes of a gay or transgender person. You may not personally align with one’s religion or sexual orientation, but that doesn’t give you the distinct privilege to judge and decide their lives and feelings don’t count. We live in the “land of the free”, afford them that right.

Step outside the comfort zone of your political beliefs. Listen to other viewpoints with an open mind. Go ahead and read Breitbart and watch Fox News, but also read the New York Times or Washington Post, and watch CNN or a network nightly world news program. It’s hard. It’s annoying. It makes your blood pressure rise. I get it. The problem is, looking down on others based on sound bites and pundit commentary courtesy of your political safe space helps nobody. Perpetuating one-sided stories fuels divides and leaves people missing important pieces of information.

When Trump detractors call Trump voters ignorant, uneducated, racist, xenophobic, etc., anger is justified, but take the sting of the insults and reflect; why did many Republicans vote for and support Trump? Support arguments with facts – prove you are not uneducated and that you voted with confidence. Many people loathed Hillary Clinton but I personally heard very few reasonable explanations supporting their disdain. Unsupported facts, half-truths, conspiracy theories, and name-calling (“Killary”) will get people nowhere and ultimately proves nothing. PLEASE don’t believe one-sided news sources simply because it makes you feel better about supporting Trump; believe them because you researched, read, and educated yourself and proved the articles, commentaries, etc., to be true. Oh, and if it sounds outlandish (pizza parlor child trafficking, anyone?), Snopes that stuff (at the very least).

When Kellyanne Conway goes on multiple talk shows and complains about Republicans blocking cabinet picks, remember the past 8 years – with clarity. Merrick Garland, anyone? Eight years of stalled legislation. Eight years of threatened and actual governmental shutdowns. If you are going to complain, admit Republicans have done the same and provide solid reasons as to why Congress should move ahead with Republican picks now. Don’t ask Democrats and detractors to just suddenly “be better” because Republicans are in office now.

Be honest. What if Obama or Hillary were saying and doing what Trump is/has done? How would Republicans react if Hillary won the election and our intelligence agencies presented Russian meddling evidence? Or if Obama spoke about groping women as Trump did? Just because you are a Republican doesn’t mean you need to agree with everything their elected officials say and do. Blindly supporting a leader is flat-out dangerous.

To my fellow Christians (since many conservatives are) – practice what you preach. Look in your heart and be honest with yourself; does Donald Trump encompass what you truly believe as a Christian? Love, kindness, accepting and welcoming immigrants, financial accountability, personal accountability, good character – do any of these fall into the Trump category? If you still choose to support him, absolutely fine, but do not try to portray him as a wholesome religious man. Nobody is perfect but do not paint Donald Trump with a shiny wholesome veneer when he himself has portrayed himself as anything but.

Finally, just as Republicans fiercely protect and fight for the second amendment, I sincerely hope they fight for the rest of our rights and the rest of those amendments. Freedom of the Press seems a good place to start right now.

Obviously not all of my points apply to all Republicans (it would be wrong to over-generalize, clearly), but these are some of the common themes I’ve read over and over the past few months. So I say, be smart. Be educated. Be kind. Be empathetic. Be honest. If we continue down this path of selfish, ignorant destruction, we are in so much trouble. Do not blindly support a candidate because you are so afraid of leaving your political and social comfort zone that you will defend blatant lies, sexual misconduct, questionable financial dealings, disregard for our constitution, etc. Demand better. Listen, empathize, read, and think – honestly. Doing this led me to realize I am not affiliated with a political party because my views are not contained in a box; I have viewpoints that align with Democrats, Republicans, and even Libertarians. I will not sacrifice decency, knowledge, and basic human kindness to align with a political party or its candidate. It’s absolutely fine if you do, but please, do it for the right reasons. Don’t let the wrong reasons define you and your character – or the direction of this country.

The Donald’s Whole-Hearted Honor to Dr. King

So sweet of President Elect Trump to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by tweeting about his legacy in 140 or less character. I’m sure Dr. King would be so honored that if he were alive today, he may even retweet the sincerity.

Or maybe Dr. King would sit back, and reflect on what the hell is going on. For instance, just this past weekend Trump used the very same platform to denounce Congressman John Lewis of Georgia,  who publicly announced he would be boycotting the inauguration of Donald Trump. John Lewis was 18 years old when he met Dr. King, was one of the original 13 Freedom Riders, was arrested for peaceful protests more times than one could count on all their fingers and toes, and even spoke at the March on Washington beside Dr. King. Oh the irony.

Does the obvious racist sentiments of Trump stop there? Donald Trump nominated Senator Jeff Session to be the impartial Attorney General of the United States. Sessions is a man that could not get past the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986 when nominated to be a judge by Ronald Reagan because of comments like the KKK is “OK until I found out they smoked pot.” or denouncing the NAACP because it was “shoving Civil Rights down peoples throats”. How dare they stick to their mission.

How about the fact that just 5 years after Dr. King was assassinated, Trumps father Fred Trump was sued by the Justice Departments Civil Rights Division for blatant racial discrimination in who Trump’s housing businesses rented apartments to. The National Urban League sent equally qualified renters, some white and some black, to apply to Trump owned apartments – can you guess who was not “qualified” to live in them?

Or the time Trump took out full page ads advocating for the death penalty for 5 black kids in NYC who were convicted for raping and beating a 28 year old woman? Well, maybe it’s not that terrible, people are strongly divided on the death penalty… oh wait it is because the kids sentence was vacated in 2002 when DNA evidence not only cleared the 5, but pointedly singled out the actual attacked who was already in prison for like. OK, he can’t be judged for something he didn’t know in 1989, but he can, because as of 2016 he still thinks the 5 black kids are guilty!

How about the fact that Trump refused to believe that Barack Obama was an American citizen because his father was born in Kenya until early 2016? And not only that, he blamed Hillary Clinton for starting the rumor 8 years prior!

Indeed President Elect Trump, let us all honor the legacy of Dr. King. Let’s just be sure not to follow your example.

Coca-Cola Sparked Hatred to Sell Sugar Water

Muy Bien
Muy Bien

Have you seen any of the aftermath for what seemed like a harmless Coca-Cola Superbowl commercial? The one where a diverse group of people sing America the Beautiful in different languages? Oh, it also supposedly featured the first gay couple in a Super Bowl ad spot? Yeah that’s the one. Have you seen the uproar? Where do we even begin..

First, the emphasis on language is just tiresome. People are offended that a patriotic-American song is being sung in different languages. If anything, this should be taken as a complement to America, not an insult. America should be thought of as a place to be desired by all peoples of all races and cultures. If the offended love America so much, what’s wrong with others envying what you love so much?

Also on the subject of language, keep in mind words and speech are entirely arbitrary. They are made up sounds engineered by human beings that evolve over time into chaotic structures that try and make sense of our surroundings. Don’t get me wrong, communication is important, but not nearly as important as the underlying message for what these words represent: beauty, love, anger, triumph; it is all the same regardless of language.

Former Congressman Allen West says this kind of commercial balkanizes the United States instead of unifying it. I can say with 100% certainty that he is wrong; it is people like Mr. West balkanizing the United States by saying things like this. Mr. West is (sadly) a powerful influence to his many followers, and by saying stuff like this he is now a proponent of dividing people. Had he just accepted the commercial, or said nothing about it, West would have done a far greater service to the effort of unifying people. Instead, West further pushes the intolerance envelope by enlarging what should not have been a non-issue in the first place.

With regard to the gay couple in the ad, I know there is nothing I can say to make the offended care less about this. Though, I will point out the woman who wrote the song America the Beautiful more than 100 years ago, Katherin Lee Bates, was very likely a lesbian herself. She lived with the same woman for more than 25 years. Of course, this may just make the offended hate the song now, so what’s the use?

Why hate this commercial for political reasons, or at all for that matter? It’s a Coca-Cola commercial, not a government/Obama/political commercial. It’s a multinational corporation selling you sugar water. It’s not a spark for a debate on immigration reform. It is nothing but an advertisement. How do non-English speaking people really affect your lives? How do gay people really affect your lives? These things likely have no impact on your day to day life, so why muster the energy to hate on these things? Because it’s easy to hate?

What I really want to say is just live and let live you crazy fucks. Or, to put it more eloquently than I ever could, I will let the late Roger Ebert take it away:

I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances.

Selfless Promotion for New Product I Made

Use it because I want you to
Use it because I want you to

So this is totally unrelated to anything ever posted on the Step Aside bog, but I would like to take the next couple of sentences to introduce you to Proceemo. Proceemo is a free service that lets you “watch” items on Amazon, and notifies you when the price of that item has dropped. In case you have not noticed, prices on Amazon fluctuate often because of third party sellers, Amazon inventory, etc. Proceemo offers users a simple and free way to get notified via email when something you want has lowered its price. It’s simple, and did I mention its free?


Composing Emails for Efficiency


(I originally posted this article on Medium on Jan 14, 2014)

Email is a touchy subject for a lot of people. How to organize email for efficiency, for instance, is a much debated topic. The zero-inbox method is perhaps the most popular organizational method. Others will insist on labels and folders and forwarding and archiving and blah and blah blah; I don’t actually care. My email is organized into a single folder with two categories: read and unread. You can feel free to comment about how I am wrong about this, but I have been doing it this way for 20 years, and I’m pretty damn good about keeping up with it.

Furthermore, a lot of people complain about the amount of email they get, that they don’t have enough time to process it all. I’ve a suggestion for you people: UNSUBSCRIBE. If you are receiving more email than can be processed, then you are just wasting precious bandwidth. In fact, this is a classic networking problem: if the processing rate of a given stream is larger than the incoming rate — the solution is to slow down the publisher or the result will be message loss. For example, with TCP, it is the receiving side’s job to throttle the sender. In other words, stop subscribing to things you are not going to read! (I told you this was a touchy subject)

Anyway, I actually come to you today to discuss the content of emails for ultimate efficiency. I happen to work in a job where the major importance for me is emailing customers on how to use and diagnose a highly technical product. For the most part, the people I am emailing are intelligent tech people, however their soft skills leave a lot of room for improvement. Often times, I need to find out a lot of information from a customer to better serve them. After I carefully explain each item of information that I am requesting and why I am requesting it, I often find that the customer will only respond to the first or second question, and ignore the rest of my email that I worked so hard on composing. So here is my first suggestion:

1. Use numbered lists

Numbered lists are a great way to let people know that I want you to look at each number very carefully. When executed properly, the customer will answer the questions inline which just makes me jump for joy. Sometimes, for the very difficult customers, I will put instructions at the top of the email like “Please answer every one of the questions below”. Even with these explicit instructions, I get a few outliers who ignore items. These people cannot be helped, and you will be wondering forever how they retain employment.

Moving on. Like I said, I work with a highly technical product with smart customers. This means that I have to be halfway intelligent myself, otherwise I would not be able to help them. That being said, save the pissing matches for another day. Email is not the time nor the place to prove you are smarter than the other guy, and this brings me to point 2:

2. Be short and direct with information

When you add content for the sole purpose of trying to sound smart, you look like an asshole. Don’t try and blow peoples minds with information they don’t need to know. Get to the point, and get to it fast with clarity.

Finally, how to deal with rude people. You’ve all gotten rude email before, and you always spend extra time thinking about how to respond to it. Rude email is typically not something you should get too concerned over, in my opinion. People act tougher and meaner via email because they’re not looking directly at you. Email is so impersonal that is easy for anyone to be rude. I have two methods for dealing with rude emails:

3a: Be apologetic and shower with kindness.

This passive-aggressive technique is beautifully simplistic, and is a seriously high form of trolling. My wife works in an email-based profession, and this is her technique for dealing with rude people. While I seriously admire the usage of this technique, I tend to avoid it. Instead, I go with:

3b: Be shorter and ruder than them.

This leaves the possibility for two outcomes, 1) They get the point and cool off or 2) the issue escalates to a more serious form of communication, like a conference call. Sometimes, two people are not compatible for email and the only options are to either never communicate or get on the phone. I like getting on the phone, because it’s usually much faster to get to a point and because people are typically much nicer over the phone (again, there are outliers to this rule — some people are just inherently assholes).

Good luck and happy emailing.

Bringing Out the Worst in People

Bad journalism makes Keanu sas
Annoying stories make Keanu sad

By now, you have heard all over your Facebook news feed that some guy on a show you may or may not watch said some stuff which may or may not be offensive depending on your level of sensitivity. If you have not seen it on your Facebook news feed, than you have seen it on Fox News, CNN, the Daily Show, Twitter, where ever – it cannot be avoided at this point. The story is such a “powerful” story because it releases opinions like no other.

The thing of it is, it’s not really a good story. Its “power” lies in the fact that it makes people feel emotional either for or against this guy. But it’s not mind blowing, it is not going to change anyone’s opinions about people, it is not going to bring people together; only the opposite if anything. There is no learning moment to be had, no epiphany of such. It has nothing to do with the constitution, no matter how many times pundits quote it. It doesn’t make the person who made the statement a bad person, and it doesn’t make the company that might fire him a bad company. It is nothing, yet it is so big, right now.

In two months time, it will be forgotten. And the wounds opened with friends and loved one will be for nothing.