28 April 2009

Rally in Support of Those Imprisoned for Expression

Freedom of Speech - One of Our Great Liberties. I join others who are part of the blog rally for bloggers that are dying - it started here for Roxana Saberi - the NPR reporter incarcerated in Tehran.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers."

Journalist Roxana Saberi has been incarcerated in Tehran's Evin Prison, where she is spending her birthday on a hunger strike. Around the world, people continue to face similar violations of their rights to freedom of expression, free speech, and a free press. Let's show the international community that we won't be silenced by intimidation and tyranny - that we won't stop believing in and fighting for these rights.

Freedom of the press is not a luxury. It lies at the heart of making this world healthier and more just. People without a voice and without a clear line of sight into the things that would threaten or corrupt their societies cannot hope for equitable growth and meaningful change.

A group of bloggers is holding a blog rally in support of journalists, bloggers, students, and writers who have dared to express their thoughts freely and have been imprisoned, abused, or killed.

Please consider "wearing" a blue ribbon online this week on your blogs, websites, and facebook / myspace / twitter pages, and invite others to do the same. Get the discussion going, and keep it going!

Are Americans More Polite

Personal experiences and those anecdotally from friends and colleagues from Europe living in the US lead me to believe that this country is more friendly and more polite.

All this could just a simple cause and effect because I am more positive towards the country I live in but a recent conversation with another European who had similar experiences lends some credence to the idea that people are just more polite and friendly here in the US.

On a recent trip back to Europe he used local public transportation from his house to the airport and as is typical had a positive interaction with the driver who wished him a great day and a pleasant vacation. Arriving in his old home where the local public trasnportation system had changed he boarded the bus unsure of the destination and made the mistake of asking the driver......he was berated for asking the question since as the driver said "can you not read, the information is on the outside of this bus". Now I would not suggest that this is always the case and I am sure others can relate the reverse case where arriving in the US visitors feel they are treated rudely. I know many visitors complain quietly for fear of repercussions about the unpleasant experience entering the US through immigration and the feeling that you are a criminal until proven otherwise when stood opposition the immigration officer at you US port of entry. But that aside the general tone always appears to be more polite and positive.

The idea that someone would speak to you in an elevator (UK translation - lift) and wish you a "good day" is alien to most. If I am honest with myself I would own up to my own discomfort when I first arrived here to what I perceived to be a superficial pleseantry of the "Have a Good day" exchange. But time and experience has made this activity a staple of my life here and one I actually enjoy. In fact there is good evidence that being happy affects even those you don't know and the act of smiling has a positive effect on everyone around you. In this report on the HHS site "Being Happy Affects Even Those You Don't Know" the conclusions are clear - happiness is contagious:
Our own personal happiness spreads beyond people we're directly connected to
So consider this as you face your day - smiling has a postive effect all around you and also affects your own mood. Smiling is easier and while the full results are undetermined per this review of the material that circulates regularly in our in boxes on the number of muscles to smile vs frowning:
It is not a cure-all for every situation but in terms of getting us past a small dose of the blues, it can help to lift the sense of sadness being experienced
So perhaps in the current economic climate there may be reason to be hopeful in the US since the culture is more positive and proud that this will help carry us through this crisis and out the other side quickly

As the the article said:
People who are surrounded by many happy people are more likely to be happy in the future than those who are surrounded by unhappy people
I'm happy are you?

04 April 2009

Customer Service Done Right

I traveled on a flight recently from Pittsburgh (PIT) to Chicago (ORD) UA153 which was headed up by Captain Denny Flanagan who has a reputation in the frequent flyer community for going above and beyond and was featured in the Wall Street Journal not so long ago. To the right is First Officer Les Bourne and the left/below is Captain Denny Flanagan

This flight was no exception and it has been my pleasure to fly on aircraft piloted by him a couple of times and he always goes above and beyond.

He demonstrates the values of customer service that so many could learn from. He introduced himself at the gate, made a joke about it being his first flight ......today and then let everyone know what to expect on the flight. At boarding he handed out information cards on the Boeing 767 aircraft - more on that later. Then explained why we sat on the tarmac for an extended delay (flight computer problem), apologized and detailed how he was going to do his best to make up the time by flying higher and faster at greater cost the airline (4 gallons to the mile apparently).

In flight he apologized again for the delay and provided his e-mail address and cell number for any passenger who might want to contact him direct to learn more or might need help with connections in Chicago as, and I quote "I have an hour layover before I take the plan on the LA".

He then let people know that the cards he gave included a couple with signatures that if held would be exchanged for a bottle of wine. Only one was claimed, no doubt because someone had dismissed the simple gesture of handing cards out at boarding and thown it away. FYI - asking at boarding if you happen to be on a flight for his autograph won't work :-(

He represents customer service at its best. Simple things, communication, and a genuine interest and desire to deliver a service treating problems as his own and not someone else's responsibility. They should hand out their customer assessment cards after any of his flights and get a comparison to satisfaction rates for his flights relative to a "normal" flight. And someone should e-mail Glen Tulman and tell him to get the rest of the staff into his plane to see how great service is delivered.

I'd like to have posted this at FlyerTalk but there was no easy way to include their photos and I was thrilled to capture a snapshot of the crew.

Thanks to Captain Denny and First Officer Les

03 April 2009

Soccer Coaching Introductory Letter

This was too good not to share



The fall Pixie League soccer season officially kicks off next week, and I'd like to take this opportunity to let you know the schedule and provide guidelines. I'm sure we all agree that, with the Grasshoppers' 1 - 12 record last season, there's plenty of room for improvement this fall! With a view to maximizing our performance, this summer I attended the National Conference of Pixie League Coaches, held in King of Prussia, Pa. I did some valuable networking and came away truly "pumped."


Per my memo last June regarding the summer-training regimen, your nine- year-old daughter should now be able to: (a) run a mile in under five minutes with cinder blocks attached to each ankle (lower body); (b) bench-press the family minivan (upper body); (c) swim a hundred yards in fifty-degree water while holding her breath (wind); (d) remain standing while bowling balls are thrown at her (stamina).


Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays: 5:30 A.M.

Tuesdays, Thursdays: 5:30 P.M.

Sundays: 7 A.M.

Columbus Day Weekend: 7:30 A.M.

Note: Live ammunition will be used at the Thursday practice.


Mondays, 8 P.M. Parents strongly urged to attend. See "Camera Dads"

sign-up list (Attachment E). Note: Professional-quality video cameras preferred.


Saturdays, 8 A.M. Important: Please be sure to have your daughter there at least two hours before game time for the pregame strategy briefing and pep rally. Note: As the girls will be biting the heads off live animals, we will need lots of guinea pigs, hamsters, parakeets, etc. See sign-up list (Attachment P). No goldfish, please


Last year, there was some confusion about appropriate nourishment.

According to guidelines established by the N.C.P.L.C.'s Committee on Nutrition and Performance, "snacks high in carbohydrates, sucrose, and corn syrup have been demonstrated to provide dramatic short-term metabolic gain." So save those low-fat pretzels for your cocktail parties and bring on the Twinkies and Ring Dings. Let's make sure that when the Grasshoppers hit the field they're hoppin'!


One of the many things I took away from the panel discussions at King of Prussia was that, contrary to medical guidelines, use of anabolic steroids by preteens is not necessarily a hundred per cent harmful.

(See Attachment Q: "New Thinking on Performance Boosters and

Mortality.") Grasshopper doctor dad Bill Hughes will discuss the merits of stanozolol versus fluoxymesterone and dispense prescriptions to all interested parents. (Participation encouraged!)

Note: If any Grasshopper parents are planning a vacation in Mexico, please see me about bringing back certain hard-to-get enhancers, like HGH (human-growth hormone) and EPO (erythropoeitin).


Much as I appreciate your enthusiasm, it is not helpful if in the middle of a tense game situation you abuse me verbally - or, as one overzealous dad did last season, assault me physically - because I have not sent in your daughter. For this reason, I will be carrying a Taser with me at all times. These anti-assault devices deliver up to fifty thousand volts of electricity, and leave the recipient drooling and twitching for weeks. Though I will make every effort to see that each Grasshopper gets her turn on the field, if you get "in my face"

about it don't be "shocked, shocked." to find yourself flat on your back in need of cardiopulmonary resuscitation.


If your daughter has kept up with the summer-training program, there's no reason she shouldn't be able to finish out a game with minor injuries, such as hairline bone fractures or subdural hematomas. (Parental support needed!) Remember the Grasshopper motto:

"That which does not kill me makes me a better midfielder!"


If the coaches at K. of P. were unanimous about anything, it was the key importance of parental screaming from the sidelines. This not only lets our girls know that Grasshopper parents do not accept failure but also alerts the other team that if they win you will probably "go postal" (kid talk for temporary insanity) and try to run them over in the parking lot after the game.

See you Monday morning!


There was a more recent instance here

That was also too good not to share


Congratulations on being selected for Team 7 (forest green shirts) of the Scituate Soccer Club! My name is Michael and I have been fortunate enough to be selected to coach what I know will be a wonderful group of young ladies. Chris Mac will also be coaching and I expect the ever popular Terry to return to the sidelines. Our first game will be Saturday April 4 at 10:00AM. There will be a half hour of skills followed by a 1 hour game, so total time will be 1.5 hours. All games will be played on the fields in the front of the High School. Each player will be required to wear shin guards and cleats are recommended but not required. A ball will be provided to each player at the first meeting, and each player should bring the ball to games and practices. There is no set practice time allotted for the U8 teams, but I will convene with the coaches to determine the best time and place. If there are cancellations due to rain, all notices will be posted via the Scituate Soccer Club website, no calls will be made (though I will try to send an email). Attached is the Schedule and Code of Conduct. After listening to the head of the referees drone on for about 30 minutes on the dangers of jewelry (time which I will never get back), no player will be allowed to play with pierced ears, hairclips, etc. We used to tape the earings, but that practice is no longer acceptable. Please let me know if your child has any health issues that I need to be aware of. My home phone is 781 XXX XXXX, my cell number is 781 XXX XXXX, and I check my email frequently. According to my wife, my emails get too wordy, so for those of you read too slowly, are easily offended, or are too busy, you can stop here. For the others……

OK, here’s the real deal: Team 7 will be called Green Death. We will only acknowledge “Team 7” for scheduling and disciplinary purposes. Green Death has had a long and colorful history, and I fully expect every player and parent to be on board with the team. This is not a team, but a family (some say cult), that you belong to forever. We play fair at all times, but we play tough and physical soccer. We have some returning players who know the deal; for the others, I only expect 110% at every game and practice. We do not cater to superstars, but prefer the gritty determination of journeymen who bring their lunch pail to work every week, chase every ball and dig in corners like a Michael Vick pit bull. Unless there is an issue concerning the health of my players or inside info on the opposition, you probably don’t need to talk to me. Coach MacDonald has been designated “good guy” this year.

Some say soccer at this age is about fun and I completely agree. However, I believe winning is fun and losing is for losers. Ergo, we will strive for the “W” in each game. While we may not win every game (excuse me, I just got a little nauseated) I expect us to fight for every loose ball and play every shift as if it were the finals of the World Cup. While I spent a good Saturday morning listening to the legal liability BS, which included a 30 minute dissertation on how we need to baby the kids and especially the refs, I was disgusted. The kids will run, they will fall, get bumps, bruises and even bleed a little. Big deal, it’s good for them (but I do hope the other team is the one bleeding). If the refs can’t handle a little criticism, then they should turn in their whistle. The sooner they figure out how to make a decision and live with the consequences the better. My heckling of the refs is actually helping them develop as people. The political correctness police are not welcome on my sidelines. America’s youth is becoming fat, lazy and non-competitive because competition is viewed as “bad”. I argue that competition is good and is important to the evolution of our species and our survival in what has become an increasingly competitive global economy and dangerous world. Second place trophies are nothing to be proud of as they serve only as a reminder that you missed your goal; their only useful purpose is as an inspiration to do that next set of reps. Do you go to a job interview and not care about winning? Don’t animals eat what they kill (and yes, someone actually kills the meat we eat too – it isn’t grown in plastic wrap)? And speaking of meat, I expect that the ladies be put on a diet of fish, undercooked red meat and lots of veggies. No junk food. Protein shakes are encouraged, and while blood doping and HGH use is frowned upon, there is no testing policy. And at the risk of stating the obvious, blue slushies are for winners.

These are my views and not necessarily the views of the league (but they should be). I recognize that my school of thought may be an ideological shift from conventional norms. But it is imperative that we all fight the good fight, get involved now and resist the urge to become sweat-xedo-wearing yuppies who sit on the sidelines in their LL Bean chairs sipping mocha-latte-half-caf-chinos while discussing reality TV and home decorating with other feeble-minded folks. I want to hear cheering, I want to hear encouragement, I want to get the team pumped up at each and every game and know they are playing for something.

Lastly, we are all cognizant of the soft bigotry that expects women and especially little girls, to be dainty and submissive; I wholeheartedly reject such drivel. My overarching goal is develop ladies who are confident and fearless, who will stand up for their beliefs and challenge the status quo. Girls who will kick ass and take names on the field, off the field and throughout their lives. I want these girls to be winners in the game of life. Who’s with me?

Go Green Death!



Team, After careful consideration, I have decided to resign from all coaching responsibilities related to Team 7 this season. Unfortunately, it has come to my attention that some parents and the Board of Scituate Soccer failed to see the humor in my pre-season email. For the avoidance of doubt, the email was largely (albeit not completely) meant in jest and with the goal of giving the parents a chuckle while enduring yet another round of organized youth sports. It was also meant as a satire of those who take youth sports too seriously for the wrong reasons. My overarching goal is the well-being of my players, and I do not want any player to feel uncomfortable, nor do I want to see the team disbanded because of a lack of active players. Therefore, while I’d prefer to go down swinging, it’s really about the kids and it just makes more sense for me to take the year off.

While I respectfully disagree with the Board's interpretation of my comments, I believe that they should be commended for their immediate actions to address the concerns of the offended parties. The Board’s action proves that the chain of command is functioning as designed. Board members volunteer their valuable time and I do not plan to add to their already significant workload. I also respect those parents who were offended as I am sure they acted in the best interest of their children. While I may question their sense of humor, I have no right to question their judgment regarding their children. Perhaps we may even have beer (I’ll buy) and a couple of laughs at the end of all of this.

And while I am sorry some people failed to see the humor, I do not apologize for my actions; I wrote it, I think it's funny and I do have a distaste for the tediousness of overbearing political correctness. Furthermore, I was serious about parental involvement as I do believe parents should cheer and encourage players (in a positive fashion obviously) so that the kids feel the excitement that comes from team competition. And most importantly, I was completely serious that I want to see each young girl develop a positive self image, self-confidence and the will to succeed in any endeavor that she desires. Lastly, I have added some comments to my initial email (in capitals) to clarify several points that may have been viewed as offensive.


Michael A. Kinahan