All posts by Peter Minde

Future of the U.S. Economy?

I had to read this dismaying story twice about the manufacture of iPhones in China.  The question isn’t whether American companies have an “obligation” to support American workers.  Rather, how long do American businesses expect people to buy their products with minimum wage paychecks from a fast food restaurant job?

I don’t begrudge China its success in turning into an industrial powerhouse.  What is distressing, however, is the inability or lack of interest in keeping up with the times.

Clear Communication Enhances The Customer Experience

This afternoon, I went shopping for Christmas gifts for my niece.  In a well-known children’s clothing store, I puzzled over the sizing nomenclature on clothing labels.

“What is size 6X?” I asked the salesperson.

“It’s a size seven,” she replied.

OK… why not simply label it size seven?

A month ago, I called a local place to make reservations for my daughter’s birthday party.  I started inquiring about availability and rates.  On the other end of the phone, the young lady said, “You can find all that information on our web site.”

Sorry, but that’s not acceptable customer service.  Had my child not desperately wanted to have her birthday party there, I would have hung up.

Web sites are wonderful, they’re accessible 24/7 at your convenience.  But when I call your business, I want to sound you out.  I’m considering a business relationship of some sort.  What’s the tone of voice like on the other end?  Is that person knowledgeable about the product or service they’re offering?  Telling me the information is available online is almost saying that you’d rather not be bothered.

Clear communication is key for any business.  Whether you’re a mom and pop retailer, a startup owner seeking venture capital, or a Fortune 500 company, you need to put clear ideas across verbally as well as in writing.  What’s your business communication style?

The No-Growth Trap: An Endless Loop

I came across this story in The National Interest after the New York Times’s David Leonhardt tweeted it.  Densely written, the incisive view on our stagnant economy and politics is well worth your time.  My only quabble is this sentence.

“The borrowing that the government needs to do to fund its shortfall absorbs the savings that in a fully employed economy would otherwise go into investments in new factories, new equipment, new office buildings, new research and new houses.”

While we’re good at designing products in this country, the actual assembly of them is farmed out to foreign countries.  I see little incentive for American companies to build new factories and engage in production at home.  Corporate disinterest in domestic manufacturing will continue the stagnating of the U.S. economy.

 

Adapt and Be Flexible to Change

I never planned to be one of those people that habituates a coffee shop for the rest of my life, hogging a table while pecking away at a laptop computer.  Yet I’m committing that very sin as my family has been without power in the wake of the October 29 snowstorm that pummeled the northeast.

Our daughter’s school is closed due to downed power lines.  She’s reading a book while I write and caffeinate.

So what does this have to do with being flexible?  Right now, I have no choice but to be flexible.  So I’ll be cooking outdoors and schlepping dirty clothes to the laundromat for a few days.

No point stomping your feet and pitching a fit if you’re affected by the storm.  All that negative energy will just wear you out.

Whether you’re working or in mid job search, be flexible when change throws you a curveball.  You’ll impress your coworkers, as well as surprise yourself at what you learn.

 

 

Scouting Photo Scenes in the Catskills

On one of those crisp autumn cloudy/sunny days with a bit of wind, I drove to the Catskills to hang out.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t to play.  If I’d bagged a huge run, you’d be seeing the photos and the story on Oxygen Fed Sport. Instead, yesterday was a work day.  I’ve written an article for Trail Runner magazine about the Catskills.  I sent them my revision the day before Hurricane Irene pummeled the region.  Now, I’m writing a sidebar about how the area is recovering from Irene’s aftermath.  Yesterday, my plan was to interview local people about how they’re recovering from the hurricane, and to scout photo locations.

My running miles in the Catskills have all been to the north or west recently.  But although I haven’t driven up Route 28 past the turnoff for Woodstock in a few years, the damage was obvious.  Tree trunks lay atop huge piles of stones in the middle of the turgid Esopus.  Running high, brown and fast, the river had plainly re-routed itself during the madness of the hurricane.

I snuck past a “Road Closed” sign on to County Road 47, to see if I could get to the Slide Mountain trail head.  This road is a mess:  parts of it are untouched, then you’re driving past collapsed houses and piles of river stone left on the banks.  One bridge has been replaced.  When I encountered caution tape strung across the road, I gave up and turned around.

In Phoenicia, I stopped in at a couple of hotels and at Sweet Sue’s restaurant to interview local people about how the economy is doing. The funky main street looked no different than any other day, but one look in back yards, covered with mud and detritus, told another story.

The Spruceton trail head was another destination, which would have afforded a couple of great scenes:  the grassy fire roads of the Spruceton Trail and the Diamond Notch Falls.  Spruceton Road, one of the most beautiful valleys in the Catskills, was also damaged.  While the houses looked OK from the outside, the road took a beating.  The further into the valley I went, the more beat up the road became.  I gave up trying to get to the Spruceton trail head at the end of the road.  My short run on the west side of West Kill Mountain – the western terminus of the Devil’s Path – was obscured by blowdown.  Never having been on this trail before, I don’t know if it’s always this wet or if this was a result of the hurricane and all the other rain we’ve had.

In the end, I drove 287 miles, spending most of my day on my backside in the car, with one hour speaking to various people and another spent running uphill.

The day before the photo shoot, today, Sunday.  Again, I drove to the Catskills, hoping to meet a group of runners at Diamond Notch off Route 214 to get photographs.  If you told me that Diamond Notch was the least used trail head in the Catskills, I’d believe it.  The paved road turns into dirt.  All the property at the end of the dirt road is posted.  So you have to drive a narrow, stony, miserable path that is so badly rutted it feels like you’re driving your car to its grave.

Fortunately, the run up to Diamond Notch is beautiful.  Alongside the Hollow Tree brook, you gradually ascend a clove that becomes narrower and narrower.  What starts as an old road gradually devolves into singletrack.  At the saddle, the clove ends.  There’s an awesome photo opportunity there:  the light coming down, dappled by autumn trees, and an intimate view of mountains to the south.  However, the magazine wants only pictures with runners in it.  It’s the occupational hazard of being a lone wolf.

The people I was chasing had written down both Hunter and West Kill Mountains in the trail register.  A flip of the coin, I chose to run West Kill and didn’t find them.