Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Instant Deal Clubhouse

In keeping with the randomness of my posts, I wanted to share my activities last night at a place that I see as a game changer.  Living Social threw a wine tasting event with free cheese and meats from Cowgirl Creamery, which is where white people spend a lot of money on cheese in DC. However, the thing that made this different is that Living Social threw the event in their own space.

They recently gutted and renovated a building at 918 F St. NW in the District.  The bottom 4 floors and the basement are for programming, while the top two floors are for staff offices.  LS is headquartered in DC, which I didn't know.  So last night, while we were drinking wine, there was a beer tasting going on and a painting and wine class and they also have a pop-up restaurant of Mike Isabella, who is expanding his Graffiato empire in DC.  The point being that there's a lot of options for them with all the space and configurations.  This to me is the next step.

Instead of the deals at the manicure place or the restaurant places which have mixed reviews by their owners on how effective they are, LivingSocial can program it's own events using outside people but not having to worry about poor tippers or overwhelming small businesses.  As LivingSocial expands their Adventures line, I think people will feel a lot closer to them as opposed to just a place that allows them to eat cheaper.  It helps their brand.

Not to mention that Google Offers has a better system for figuring out what deals I want.  They even asked me to tell them what I was interested in, which means I don't get offers for pedicures  anymore, which is great.  I think they will eventually own that deal space.  Groupon is old news and I think they made a big mistake by not taking Google's insane $6 billion dollar offer.  If that doesn't define greedy, I'm not sure what does.  I hope that Google crushes them.

Hot Tip: Ramblings has learned that Google Offers has inked an exclusive deal with Major League Baseball for 500,000 tickets for next season.  They will be the only place you can get tickets to games.  Not LS, Groupon, Goldstar, etc. 

Overall I like the step that LivingSocial took, I look forward to more events there and I would be even willing to part with more money on occasion for more intimate or interesting experiences there.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Silent Epidemic

Most of you don't know who Matthew Schindler was.  He was a NYPD cop who worked highway safety in the 115 Precinct in Queens North.  He had 14 years on the job with 6 to go.  He had a wife and three kids.  And on Monday, February 13th, on his way home to Long Island from his day tour, he pulled his car over to the side of the LIE and shot himself in the head, dying instantly.  He is the fourth NYPD officer to kill himself in the last 30 days.  Let me restate that another way, last year 4 officers died in the line of duty, which equals the amount of officers dead in this past month.

Let me be clear, I didn't know Matt Schindler.  Nor did I know the other officers who committed suicide, but their stories are just as tragic:

  • P.O. Terrence Dean, 28, who was having suicidal thoughts and had actually placed his service weapon in his mouth in front of his father, killed himself in January.  His girlfriend had called his precinct to ask a hypothetical question to the officer on the T/S (Telephone/Switchboard) about what would happen if she reported that her boyfriend was suicidal.  She hung up and then called Terrence and relayed the gist of the conversation and he immediately thought that she had told his superiors that he was a danger to himself.  He was on the scene of a car burglary and calmly removed his weapon from his holster in front of the the victim of the robbery and shot himself in the head.  
  • P.O. Patrick Werner, 23, got into a vehicle accident and fled the scene.  A rookie, he was on the phone with his girlfriend when he got into the accident.  He drove home and killed himself.  Possibly for fear of losing his job while still on probation.  Who knows...
  • P.O. Brian Saar, just 8 days before Schindler's death go into an argument with his wife on Super Bowl Sunday and killed himself, leaving 5-year old twin girls.  
Suicide is a silent killer.  The department doesn't like to talk about it.  The families and friends might feel shame and so they don't speak of it, and thus it flies under the radar.  You better believe if the NYPD had lost 4 officers to someone else's gunfire in one month, you would be hearing all about it.  The only place to gather for these friends and colleagues and family in the immediate aftermath is the funeral.  However, the New York City Police Department doesn't give these fallen officer's an Inspector's Funeral, which is what you think of when you think of police funerals (Motorcycles, helicopters, honor guard)

I worked in the 28 Precinct for 5 years and in that time we didn't lose a single officer in the line of duty, however we did have an officer take his own life.  His name was Will Joynes and his death was devastating. Like many of these guys, we was quite nice and helpful to us rookies and he also seemed to be the only person who knew what a book looked like in the 28.  I remember drinking on the night we found out, and knowing that alcohol wasn't the solution, but it was a treatment that felt pretty good surrounded by friends. 
As mentioned, the Job* didn't provide anything for the funeral.  So our Commanding Officer, DI Dolan, used his pull within the Emerald Society to get Aviation to send one helicopter and Highway to send a motorcycle or two.  One of our guys was in the Ceremonial Unit, so they asked guys in the unit on their own time to come and help . We even had a trumpet player from the 28, to play taps.  It was a small showing, but it was a family and quite personal.  

I sent a check for $50 to a cop in the 115 for Matt Schindler's family, as they will need the funds.  I found this article when I was researching this post, which is eerily familiar.  It was from 1994, when a staggering 12 NYPD officers killed themselves. Every officer has a means to end their lives at a moment's notice.  In some cases, like P.O. Dean's, perhaps the outcome was inevitable.  But for some of these, you wonder if they had a little more time or someone to talk to, if they would rush to pick up the gun.  Every cop lives in fear of NYPD's Bureau of Psych Services, because these are the people who take your guns.  And a cop without a gun is just a person.  A gun and a badge are really all that's needed to be a lawman.  Just watch a western.  
So the Job and the job exerts stresses both internally and externally on a person, which then scares them into   thinking that if they're open about their fears or thoughts, that they'll be branded a psych case and never return to active duty again. 

There has to be a middle ground.  One where the NYPD acknowledges that depression is fairly common in people.  That the shift work and brutal things one can see on patrol can wreak havoc on family life and one's liver.  To accept those facts instead of insisting that it's not their fault and offer posters of numbers to call.  Calls that might lead who knows where.  If the NYPD is supposed to be a family, then the parents (Brass) are supposed to take care of their kids.  Instead, what happens are absentee parents and the siblings looking after themselves, which is incredibly helpful, but not enough.  

As there is no memorial to these fallen officers, I'm happy to allow thoughts in the comments section.  Let's chase this out of the darkness.  Let's own it and the pain and heartbreak that comes with it.  Let's take care of each other.  The family of Matt Schindler and my brothers and sisters in the 115, you are in my thoughts and prayers today. 

* The Job is jargon for the department. Example: The Job screwed that guy and took all his vacation time because he lost his prisoner

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

I Miss College Outrage

So while many of us were watching the Super Bowl, those viewers in Michigan were treated to an ad by Pete Hoekstra.

It's not clear what bothered me more. The broken English? The fear mongering? Or the fact that they had this actress pedaling a bike through a rice paddy, like something out of Platoon, instead of her sucking on truck exhaust in a major city with cranes everywhere. I will say that there's been a bunch of outrage about this ad, including from Republicans who clearly feel this makes them look bad as well.

However, a trip to the website was what got me angry.  If you think the video is bad, the website will make your head asplode.   Now I don't know Ms. Stabenow, and I'm sure she's a terrible politician who in fact has done similar things, see....

"According to a 2006 op-ed in the Detroit Free Press, Democratic Party chair Mark Brewer provided fortune cookies to reporters with messages that said GOP candidate Dick DeVos "would outsource your jobs to China."

But 2 wrongs don't make a right, while two Wongs clearly make a political ad.

I was lucky enough to go to Vassar College which had a really opinionated student body, that was uniquely attuned to diversity issues.  There was even a multi-cultural center, built as a safe space for students of color to go and feel themselves.   And among the cultural groups on campus, the Asian Students Alliance (ASA) were known for two things.  Great parties. Brilliant organization and political skill.  They even got my roommate who was insanely elected Auditor to look the other way while they bought booze on official funds.  Of course he wasn't really looking the other way, he was more drunk in a corner.

I want ASA right now.  To come marching in and raise holy hell.  I want the people who loved the E-Trade baby commercial to wake up and realize that there are more important things in this country.  Understand I'm not talking about our relationship with China, I'm talking about the lack of decency and civility in politics and our discourse.  I want Mo Chin, Ken Wong and Mark Llobrera* to break down the door of Pete Hoekstra's office and just say "What the fuck?" Because seriously, what the fuck.  People need to be outraged, and not just the Democrats or the Asian Associations and groups that all the media asked for comment.  But white people, like me.

The fact is that if Debbie Stabenow was a Chinese-American, this would never have happened.  But because she's white, this is apparently okay.  If I ran against a woman for Congress who supports giving money for AIDS relief in Africa, could I have photos of National Geographic boobies and the lady with the rings around her neck and get away with it?  Hells no.

I understand that people are busy and working and trying to make payments.  But indignation is free.  And everyone can afford to be indignant about things that clearly aren't right. There are days I miss the outrage that could blow up in seconds on a college campus like Vassar.  This is one of those days. 

* These fine gentlemen were in ASA, and clearly have no knowledge of any booze for bribes scandal.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Traveling Hero

I realized today that I change when I travel.  Let me state here, for those who are not aware, that I'm into transportation.  I could talk about the aviation industry or US high speed rail for hours and not get bored.  There is even a film about people like me who fly for no reason but to get more miles.  So I know travel, and yet it amazes me how I travel differently.  For example:
  • When flying first class, as I sometimes get upgraded, I am constantly aware of the fact that I get booze for free.  Don't get me wrong, I love a good gin and tonic on an evening flight.  However I generally order alcohol no matter what because it's free and I want to take advantage of my upgrade.  Contrast this with the first class regulars who get water with no ice.  At dinner tonight a colleague said when he gets in first class, he considers it his duty to drink on behalf of those in coach who have to pay.  Brave man.
  • I use toiletries that I don't normally.  I'm a shampoo guy.  I go to a barber and got my hair cut by telling the lady what number trimmer blade to use (3).  I'm not high maintenance at all.  So when I used conditioner tonight smelling of roses, I laughed.  They offer it, so I take it.  
  • Tonight, after dinner, I left my group and wanted ice cream.  Ben and Jerry's was closed (Yelp lies!) and so I was walking back home.  I saw a pizza spot and ended up grabbing a slice and a soda.  I have no idea why.  It just seemed like a good idea.  
Travel questions?  Email me.  I can help you. I'm a geek like that.