December 9, 2006

Dhaka Double Traffic

Double lane traffic - here in Dhaka, Bangladesh. One lane for cars and one for rickshaws, but look... one rickshaw is in the wrong lane! This means, cars must travel at the speed of a cycle rickshaw peddler. Did you know, there is an organization that wants to save the rickshaws from extinction? Check: the World Carfree Network - very interesting. I wonder what the Dhaka city car drivers think of WCN's ideas, as they are constantly blocked by the zillion rickshaws daily. What do I think? Humm... well, what about clearly defined separate lanes and equal ratios of rickshaws to cars? Posted by Picasa

December 8, 2006

Saaze Digital Signage

December 6th was a big day - Saaze got this digital sign installed! Had a little hiccup, but by December 8th it was running smoothly and catching the eyes of a high volume of foot traffic. The Digital Signage Age is here and a kicking, but sadly, the USofA is behind the rest of the planet. We are working to make that change effective immediately. Saaze - pronounced 'saa-ze' means - 'to build' and that is what we are doing. We are building a digital signage network, so jump on board the futuristic digital train. Send an email if you require screens and content installed and/or if you want to advertise on already installed screens. More info to follow... Posted by Picasa

November 24, 2006

Outside A Bird Cage

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From the outside looking in at all the pretty birdies, but what you can't hear through this image is the loud - correction - super loud... constant chirping and chatter.

Inside A Bird Cage

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I prefer that animals not be locked up in cages, but this is one big outdoor looking cage I enjoyed visiting from the inside. Cute birdies flew overhead as I tired to take this image.

October 31, 2006

The Moral Mind At War

Hallo... while listening to Radio Lab, a morality bulb went off in my head. Part of their episode covered the work of psychologist, Joshua Greene. In summary, in my words...

Scene 1, Question 1:

A trolley is zipping down the tracks toward 5 people. All 5 will be killed, but you can save them by diverting the trolley simply by pushing a lever. This action will divert the trolley to another track, but 1 person standing on this track will be killed. Is it morally permissible to push the lever and prevent 5 deaths at the cost of 1?

Scene 2, Question 2:

A trolley is zipping down the tracks toward 5 people. You are standing on a bridge over the tracks next to 1 large person. You can save the 5 people on the track, only if you push the 1 large person off the bridge and into the path of the trolley. Is that morally permissible to push the 1 person and prevent 5 deaths at the cost of 1?

For Scene 1/Q1 - most people say YES! And for... Scene 2/Q2 - most people say NO!

In Scene 1 we might kill 1 person and in Scene 2 we might kill 5 people, but we opt for killing 1 over 5? Why? Well, the action of 'push the person' prevents us from doing so, which means that 'push the person' is connected to an emotional response that gets into conflict with the logical and cognitive mind.

According to Joshua Greene's findings, emotional and cognitive processes compete for control of behavior. Therefore, our mind gets into a tussle regarding right and wrong - emotion and logic. We think... humm, pushing the person is bad, but pushing the lever is good, even if pushing the lever saves 5 lives and pushing the person saves only 1.

On another line of thought, perhaps, the 'pushing the lever action' sets us apart from the scene of the activity, while the 'pushing the person action' puts us right in the face of the action. Point being, you don't feel you are killing someone if you are at a distance and merely pushing a lever, but you feel you are killing if you push a person which seems to create a direct intent to kill in our mind and that screams - 'no, don't do it!'

Ah, the moral mind at war! We individuals react differently with each dilemma as it is presented, however, it is fascinating that as a human race our responses are collective. No bell curve effect here, huh?


September 25, 2006

Secrets Of The Natives

Hallo... I consider myself open-minded and shy away from biases, stereotypes, labels, and compartmentalizing people. However, there is one group of people I can't help favoring - the Native American Tribes. I have immense respect for them across the board.

Last April, I met with Huston Smith (author) and Phil Cousineau (author, film maker) and it was truly an honor to talk with them about their work. Details some other time, just want to quote from their book here...

A Seat At The Table

A long time ago the Creator came to Turtle Island and said to the Red People: "You will be the keepers of Mother Earth. Among you I will give the wisdom about Nature, about the interconnectedness of all things, about balance and about living in harmony. You Red People will see the secrets of Nature. You will live in hardship and the blessing of this is you will stay close to the Creator. The day will come when you will need to share the secrets with other people of the Earth because they will stray from their Spiritual ways. The time to start sharing is today." (Mohican Prophecy)

Hasn't the day come? Haven't we strayed from our spiritual ways? What can we do to change the times and our paths?

Personally, I would love to hear the secrets the Native Americans (Mohicans in particular) have to share, so that I/you/we may learn to be more spiritual and in tune with this Mother Earth. After all, isn't this the one and only home we all share?


August 19, 2006

White Water Rafting - Rescued

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Need to grab the Guide's paddle to make it back on the raft and out of the freezing water! Finally a happy ending and an awesome day!

White Water Rafting - Sunk

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Okay, that is it! I am nowhere to be seen, no wait... there is my hand still holding on to the paddle just like the Guide told me to... ever so obedient amidst the panic...

White Water Rafting - Help

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Help... I am going down and my friend appears to be landing on me...

White Water Rafting - Sinking

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Going down... water filling, panic setting in...

White Water Rafting - Hit

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Down the Sacramento River enjoying an outdoor adventure birthday treat, then WHAM! We hit a rock and the raft filled with water. Note: one of my friends waves despite the chaos. I am next to her in a maroon t-shirt.

July 23, 2006

Carnival Song

Hallo... one of my favorite songs... just love the poetry! Posted it on the net and just have to add it here to my blog.

"Carnival" by Natalie Merchant

I've walked these streets
A virtual stage
It seemed to me
Make up on their faces
Actors took their
Places next to me

I've walked these streets
In a carnival
Of sights to see
All the cheap thrill seekers
The vendors & the dealers
They crowded around me

Have I been blind
Have I been lost
Inside myself and
My own mind
By what my eyes have seen?

I've walked these streets
In a spectacle of wealth & poverty
In the diamond market
The scarlet welcome carpet
That they just rolled out for me

I've walked these streets
In the mad house asylum
They can be
Where a wild eyed misfit prophet
On a traffic island stopped
And he raved of saving me

Have I been blind
Have I been lost
Inside myself and
My own mind
By what my eyes have seen?

Have I been wrong
Have I been wise
To shut my eyes
And play along
By what my eyes have found
By what my eyes have seen
What they have seen?

Have I been blind
Have I been lost
Have I been wrong
Have I been wise
Have I been strong
Have I been
By what my eyes have found
In that great street carnival
In that carnival?


June 5, 2006

Pet Nightmares

Hallo... which TV show gives you nightmares? A horror series or a violent series? How about an animal series? Did you say - a show about animals? Oh yes I did!

Recently, the Animal Planet TV channel ran several back to back episodes of a reality series called, Animal Precinct. This show takes you on patrol with New York City's Humane Law Enforcement agents who are devoted to investigating crimes against the city's animal population. The series starts off something like this… “New York City, 8 million people, 5 million pets, 1 team of officers…”

Of course yours truly read the disclaimer – “Due to the graphic nature of this program, viewer discretion is advised…” but for some reason it did not register in my brain that a show about pets is one that I should be advised against.

So, there I was watching a string of shows that resulted in a string of nightmares. Major impact on my sleep system and one that caused shifts in my mind set!

Okay, you get the picture, but let me explain why this show causes nightmares. Not because it is a bad show, it is an excellent show, but the horrors it exposes one to would make Buddha commit suicide.

Just one show later, I was left with a zillion questions buzzing in my head like: why do people get pets if they can’t look after them? More so, why do people get pets they end up mistreating? And the purpose of a pet is what? I would think companionship, and it involves caring, loving, and spending time with.

Just like the USA has a very tough application and approval process for people who want to adopt a child, I call for a similar system for those who want to bring a pet into their lives. The goal is to make people think twice before they consider something they might not be able to handle. All in favor say, AYE!


May 8, 2006

Case Study: A Foster Child

Modified Paper from 2003 - "Case Study of A Foster Child’s Grief and Loss"

A non-profit organization in Minnesota known as, Resources for Adoptive Parents held monthly respite camps for adopted and foster children. Families dropped off their children for the entire weekend and adoption counselors engaged the children in a wide variety of activities. Most of the activities revolved around adoption issues, creating awareness, understanding, generating peer support, and making it a fun experience for the children. A key outcome was, that the children connected with others realizing that they were in the same situation as themselves. Thoughts and emotions were shared on a one-on-one basis and during group sessions.

One weekend, an adoption counselor and myself, held a group session in which we asked the children to share one good thing and one bad thing about adoption or foster care. A seven year old, Joey, waved his hand wildly asking to be called upon. Sensing his enthusiasm, my colleague asked him to share his thoughts. Joey proudly boasted, that the good thing about foster care was that he had been in fourteen homes in two years. The bad thing about foster care was, that he had not seen his mother in a long while.

After hearing Joey’s viewpoint, the other children shouted out the number of homes they had been in through their lives and within seconds the group became disorderly. Some stated, that they went through several homes before they were finally adopted, while others were still in search of a permanent home. What started out as an excited self disclosure turned into a competitive game, and the group had to be calmed down so we could continue. Ultimately, the children discussed their loss or losses, and expressed that being in many homes was not fun after all. They wanted permanency, security, and to leave behind the grief experienced with each departure.

In the case of foster children like Joey, they do not really consider being in several homes a plus point nor a competitive game. Joey wanted to make a statement and express his feelings, which did not appear to come from a sense of loss, but they did. When we dug deeper during a few one-on-one sessions with Joey, it explored the loss experienced by him when he left each foster home. His grieving was continuous and he was not given a chance to complete his grieving process and move on, because he kept moving on to another home. Each time he is abandoned by a set of foster parents, he keeps tally and knows exactly how many homes he has been in and out of in how long. It almost appears as if, Joey accepts this abandonment and loss process as a normal event in life which will continue and he will keep counting.

When we approach Joey’s story from another angle, it is rather strange that he went through so many homes in two years. Usually in the State of Minnesota, foster parents keep a child for six months or less. Perhaps, it indicates that Joey disrupted the homes he was sent to, and therefore, was removed from each home after a short period of time. When a child has experienced a certain way of life to be normal, however dysfunctional per the standards set by society, the child will see the dyfunctionality as normal. Children in foster care are abandoned by their biological parents, each set of foster parents they live with, social workers when they are changed, educators, classmates, and many others. A foster child like Joey has not even been allowed to go through the entire grieving process. For him, loss is added to more loss and the grief continues, until he is permanently placed or turns eighteen years old, at which point he will be allowed to exit the foster care system.

Thousands of Joeys’ lives have been tabulated into numerous volumes of statistical data. The material has been researched, analyzed, compiled, and presented to the nation decade after decade. Knock on the door of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or any other organization that focuses on child adoption or foster care research, and you will gain access to amazing statistical details regarding the race, gender, age, and even psychological profile of foster children, birth families, adoptive families, and much more. Despite all the facts, children still continue to enter, leave, and remain in the same system, but more so, for now, these children need to be allowed to grieve.


April 16, 2006

The Holistic Foster Child

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Modified Paper from 2003 - "Holistic Approach for Handling a Foster Child’s Grief and Loss"

Grief and loss with respect to the foster child have not been dealt with effectively in the USA, and I believe a holistic approach has been proven to be the most effective way of dealing with grief and loss in foster families. There is a need to take an insightful and personalized approach in dealing with complex issues, for the foster child goes through a traumatic time being shifted from one home to another. The basic rationale for addressing grief and loss as experienced by the foster child, stems from the lack of family education and awareness of the issues surrounding the foster child’s grief and loss. In particular, grief education and foster care training for foster families would provide tools to aide in a smooth transition for the entire foster family.

With over 550,000 children in the foster care system, the nation is failing to get them out of the system and adopted into homes. The very system that was created to protect neglected and abused children, has wrapped itself up in so much bureaucracy, that it has created a parallel and inescapable cycle of abuse. Unfortunately, most foster children spend months and even years, being shuffled in and out of various temporary homes. Each year, only a fraction of children are legally adopted, while the rest are thrown back into the recycle bin of the foster care program. The net result is, we have thousands of children experiencing loss and grieving with each change of residence. In the life of a foster child, change is constant. This change presents uncertainty. When taken from one home to another, the child walks into the unknown carrying with him or her, fears and insecurity.

Most, if not all children in foster care experience a tremendous sense of loss. There is a loss of their familiar home surroundings, at least some disruption of daily routines, loss of personal belongings, and family members. How a child experiences loss depends on many factors including: the child's developmental level, the significance of the people separated, whether the separation is temporary or permanent, and the degree of familiarity of the new surroundings. Foster children are often in an indeterminate state. When initially placed into care, it is often unknown whether the child will or will not return home. Until a biological parent's rights are relinquished or terminated, it is difficult for a child to complete the grief process. If the child goes on to be placed in other foster homes, he or she may never complete the grief process until they are out of the foster care system.

A holistic approach for handling a foster child’s grief and loss can be broken down into four sections, based on factors that influence a foster child’s life: the foster parent, the biological parent, the social worker or educator, and the adoptive parent if there is one. All four factors impact a foster child’s life and shape it in the process. Offering grief education and foster care training to all parties involved in a foster child’s life, would arm them with tools to aide in a smooth transition. Grief education can include classes or seminars covering the psychological impact of grief on a child, with a particular focus on the foster child. The format can be a mixture of two styles; lecture and interactive. Attendees will learn and use what they have learned at the same session, which opens up the course for further feedback.

Support groups for foster parents are a great opportunity to discuss and network with others whose lives have been impacted by a foster child and the foster care system. Working together the parents can gain a better understanding of the foster child’s emotional vulnerabilities and share what methods worked best for them when dealing with grief issues. On a one-on-one level, the foster parent can help the child feel safe, secure, and better prepared for their next placement. Through honest and direct communication, the foster parent can facilitate and assist the child’s natural grieving process by discussing foster care issues and educating themselves and their foster child. In addition, foster parents and social workers need to work closely to develop a plan to help the child grieve and adapt during the transitional time between permanent homes.

Educators spend a lot of time with their students and in many cases, are not aware of those in the class who are foster children. A teacher might unintentionally refer to biological or foster parents in a way that brings a foster child’s grief to the surface, causing them to modify their behavior. Also, a teacher might not be equipped to discuss the foster care situation with any degree of sensitivity. If a foster parent meets with the teacher and informs him or her before the child starts class, it would make the child’s classroom experience more favorable for all. It is best to teach the child to take the energy from their grief and trauma and focus it on something positive, like school interactions and building friendships. Brief one-on-one occasional meetings between a foster parent and teacher are ideal, because foster children tend to need more attention.

The social worker should work with the foster parent and assist the child to deal with his or her feelings. The child may not want to put feelings into words, so using play, drawing pictures, creating clay models, and other artistic methods of exploring feelings can be used. If the child wishes to verbalize their thoughts, then active listening can be an effective tool for validating emotions. Also, at this point the child’s biological parents and the loss experienced by being separated from them can be addressed. Most foster children feel abandoned by their biological parents and deeply grief the loss of the parents with grew up with however dysfunctional the family.

Involving the future adoptive parent in the life of the foster child before the placement takes place, aides in a better transition. Between finding a permanent home for a foster child and all the lengthy legal paperwork involved, there could be a long waiting period. If prospective adoptive parents attend adoptive or foster parent support groups, it could prepare them for what is to follow. Ideally, with the foster and adoptive parents working together openly in front of the child, it makes the child feel less of a sense of loss when they move into a permanent home.

Addressing grief and loss in foster care and creating awareness aides in the prevention of more complicated psychological issues for the entire foster family. Through the assistance and support of their foster parents, biological parents, social workers, educators, and adoptive parents – all working collectively, a foster child can come to terms with their being in the foster care system and work through their grief and deal with their loss. The key is for individuals to help individuals build a better family through education and awareness.


March 31, 2006

Customer Service That Rocks

Hallo... the decision was made - old car out, new car in. A list of new cars were identified and test driven by yours truly. One particular car caught my eye and senses like a magnetic attraction. It is the one!

Having identified the make and model, now began the search for the car in my favorite color and with all the gadgetry and options preferred. The hunt drove me from one dealership to another, and here is some of what I was told...

"Silver is a popular color and light blue looks nice.”
"We can put in leather seats for you, in fact the manufacturers leather isn't 100% leather."
“No such car in California or even Arizona and Nevada.”
“The car is no longer made in that color, but we have the last one of it kind sitting on a ship six weeks away.”
“There is no such car in the color and model you want in the entire United States.”

The last statement resonated across every dealership in the Northern California area. I do not exaggerate. Wait a minute, Northern California? So, I thought to myself, what about Southern California?

Tired of dealing with dealerships directly and getting the run around, I got on the car manufacturer’s website and searched for the make and model by location. Click, punch, and bingo! A dealership all the way down in Santa Clarita just north of Los Angeles had the perfect match.

A bit skeptical having been told so many different stories, I called them to ask if they really had the car I was looking for in stock, in the parking lot, and this very minute. A sales manager checked his logs and told me, “You betcha, it is here on the lot!”

In no time, we negotiated a deal at below invoice price and I was given two options regarding the delivery of the car – 1. dealership ships the car to me at no profit to them, they find a transportation company and I pick up the cost or 2. dealership pays for my plane ticket to fly out there and I drive back in my new car.

Fly – I like the sound of that! Lower cost than having the car shipped, but I felt it would be nice to take a break and go on a mini adventure.

So, off I flew into Van Nuys airport where I was met by a salesperson from the dealership in the company van. He had offered to pick me up in my new car, but I opted against it – too nervous to drive in fast paced Los Angeles among other related fears like, being in a new unscratched car on unfamiliar roads.

A 25 minute chatty ride later, we arrived at the dealership. I got to test drive my new car – a cool smooth ride! Wrapped up the paperwork between the salesperson, sales manager, and the finance whiz, and was all set to drive off up the highway with my new coffee mug and car to match. Popped in a Scorpion CD and hit the gas to “Here I am… rock you like a hurricane…”

The next day, I received a call from the salesperson to ask if my drive was safe and fun, and a few days later I received a tin of yummy cookies, a lovely thank you card, and a check reimbursing me for my plane ticket there. I am happy and still rocking to Scorpion. Why? Great customer service and a win-win situation!

Actually, the sale above was even smoother and friendlier than I described it in this short space. Think about this – how far would you go for your customer? Why is it so important to deliver on a promise and deliver the best possible customer service and follow through? Because you want to build a relationship and get repeat business, right?

I never look at a sale as MY sale, I look at it as OUR sale, because in order for the sale to be a great sale, both parties have to win-win and the outcome should be mutually beneficial. I don’t ask my customers “Can I sell you this or that?” I say “How can we work together to assist each other?” And we find the best path.

The car dealership in my personal story above treated me the way I treat my customers. This time around being on the receiving end felt really great. It gave me better insight into how I can continue to treat my customers. Thank you Santa Clarita folks for the lesson!

rock on,

February 28, 2006

Metamorphosis of Communication

Hallo... technology upgrades faster than the seasons change, and it is tough to keep up with the plethora of gadgets. The cell phone is no exception.

Instead of focusing on cell phone technology, which I will save for another day, let's look at one aspect of the metamorphosis of human communication which is a direct result of cell phone usage.

Do you recall before the cell phone took over our lives, we used to call people land line to land line and say...

"Hello! How are you?"
"What are you cooking for dinner?"
"Is that noise from the kids watching TV?"
"How was your day at work today?"
"I have to take the cake out of the oven, can I call you right back?"

And now, we call cell phone to cell phone and say...

"Hello! Where are you?"
"Can you talk now?"
"What is all that background noise?"
"How many signals have you got?"
"I am standing on the corner of Grand & Summit, can't you see me?"

One could go on to list many different common questions we did and do tend to ask on the phone. However, let's zoom in on the most common FIRST question...

Land Line = "How are you?"
Cell Phone = "Where are you?"

Here nests the most dramatic change in our human phone communication – we flew from HOW to WHERE!

I am not a linguist nor sociologist, and don’t know of any studies out there that have actually researched this switch. I am merely a ‘social observer’ (a phrase I stole from my mother) and it seems to me, that now… the location of a person takes precedence over the state of a person.

An exaggeration? Maybe. However...

Factoid 1 - with the land line we know, that the person we call is stationary within the circumference of the phone cord at his/her home or office, because it is a fixed phone.

Factoid 2 - with the cell phone, the person we call is most likely mobile, so we automatically make an assumption that he/she is okey-dokey, and thus, the question – ‘how are you?’ sounds redundant. Double-quick, we want to get to 'where are you?' so, we can set up the next mode of expression. Makes sense?

I am off to check for research to support my observations. If you find something interesting or have feedback, drop me an email.


January 23, 2006

Social Responsibility Is Trendy

Hallo... do you ever wonder why the sense of social responsibility is not emphasized more often? Here we are, one human race, one planet, shared resources, and it costs so little to act socially responsible, yet many of us just don't.

The sign in the gym locker room states, "Please limit your towel usage to 2 towels per visit" and yet people take 4, 5, 6 towels off the rack. More towels means, more laundry, means more water usage, means an environmentally un-friendly act. To add to it, people leave their used towels, empty shampoo bottles, dirty cotton buds, and more in the shower and locker room area. There are plenty of 'used towel bins' and 'garbage bins' provided so, people who disrespect public property shall be labeled as those who lack social responsibility. Right?

Take another scenario... you see a person get up from their chair and start to leave a cafe. You notice, they forget their shopping bag. Do you pick up the bag and go after them and say 'Excuse me, you forgot this' or do you just sit there thinking, 'It is not my responsibility to say something' ? Aah, not true, because it is your responsibility as a fellow human being to be socially aware and responsible.

Take also... giving up a seat on the bus to an elderly person, not throwing your garbage out the car window, helping a person in need, caring for the environment, recycling, volunteering to support foster children, and the list goes on. All minimum effort work.

One of the best lessons an x-boss taught me, and I sometimes have to remind myself, is to always question - 'What do I lose? What do I gain?' before taking any action. In that light, if we don't take plenty of towels at the gym... we are saving the environment (gain), if we use the garbage bins... we make the place cleaner for our fellow humans (gain), if we inform the cafe person about their bag... we get a smile and save them a lot of trouble (gain), if we volunteer to help foster children... we change a life or two (super gain).

Any which way you question it, socially responsible actions are not losses, but gains. Perhaps, we can make being socially responsible a trendy catchy so-today in-thing, yah?