Insights into business, society, and life in general

Archive for November, 2009

Diane Schuler: Spin City Supreme

Several readers have asked me why I write about Diane Schuler when my main theme is about business writing and rhetoric. Before when they asked me, I couldn’t give them any better answer than there was something about the whole story that was riveting, compelling, and false. Something was missing, something big. And thus I wrote to find understanding. I do believe I now have it.

I ask you to take a brief journey to check out the surveillance video of when Diane stopped at a gas station and went in looking for analgesics for her excruciatingly painful tooth.

Ponder a moment. What did you see? Did you see what I saw?

I was shocked. I did NOT see the pretty woman in the white suit, standing next to her husband, both wearing broad smiles. I did NOT see the cute mother in sunglasses surrounded by her beautiful children and handsome husband.

What I DID see was a surprisingly big woman, a woman who walked into that convenience store with an almost masculine stride, a woman who left the store empty handed and went back to her red minivan where she evidently did something that took quite some time: settle the children? Rearrange stuff in the car? Drink a significant amount of vodka?

After this seemingly long pause, I saw a red minivan pull out quite purposefully, and head out to the main road where, it appeared to me, Diane pulled  right out in front of an ongoing vehicle. Help me, did I see this right? Am I mistaken?

Here’s what I am thinking. I am thinking that Diane was pissed — mega-pissed — when that convenience store did not have any pain meds. From that point on, her anger took over. Think about the reports of her aggressive and erratic driving — honking, lights flashing, tailgating, dangerous passing. Aren’t these the kinds of things characteristic of road rage? In her state of red and irrational anger, she drank, and she drank, and she drank some more. And as she poured liquid fire down her throat, it was an antidote to her anger, until it wasn’t.

Let me say that I think Diane Schuler’s husband, Danny, and his lawyer, Dominic Barbara (where’s he been lately?) painted an extraordinarily un-Diane picture so we would all keep shaking our heads wondering what wasn’t feeling right about all of this. I read somewhere else recently where Diane was at times brusque and abrasive. She was the breadwinner — earning over $100,000 per year while poor Danny slugged away at $48,000 as a night patrol person in local parks. Her sister-in-law, Danny’s sister, admitted several weeks ago that Diane smoked pot every day and that she was a heavy drinker. This Diane is the round peg, round hole answer to the puzzle.

So why the ruse? Many reasons, the insurance — surely Danny is now terrified wondering how he will support himself and his surviving child, Danny’s denial and desperate need to keep Diane as his wonder woman, the family’s real desire to keep Diane’s name from being blackened for the same of her son, and many, many, more.

But in the meantime, the Bastardi family who seeks the truth, who NEEDS to truth to put closure to their nightmare of death, must dwell in a cesspool of their own anger, anger that will never truly mitigate until they have found their round peg and round hole. God bless, you, Bastardi family.


Quality of Work

I am chagrined and frustrated. I’ve had two annoying experiences in the last week, both at the hands of lovely people, but both in the hands of poor quality workpersonship.

Episode number 1: Several weeks ago I changed my primary care doctor, and so, like a good subscriber should, I called Blue Cross Blue Shield to let them know and request my new ID card. Deed done, task accomplished. Wrong. After a week went by and no card arrived, I put it in my craw that I needed to followup with the Blues. Life intervened with other tasks, and, unfortunately, unexpected illness.  I needed to see my new physician for the Swine flu, and fortunately, I was covered, but still didn’t have my new insurance card.  Finally today I had the time to call the Blues — AGAIN — and got another lovely person. This lovely noted that the previous lovely person I’d spoken to had not issued the computer command to send me my new card. Was I supposed to have done something? Every time I changed docs in the past, the card was automatically generated. Double duty — no thanks.

Episode number 2:  That new doc I was talking about? I had to  see her — twice because of this flu thing. After the first visit, I cjecked out, got my appointment card for the next visit, and went off on my coughing, sniffling, miserable way. It took a few days before I felt up to hobbling over the my desk and updating my calendar, and when I did, I was frustrated to find that I indeed had a lovely card, complete with the appointment date, sans appointment time. The person who did this was indeed lovely, but. … So, another double duty — called back, today in fact, spoke with someone (also lovely) and went through the whole computer thing with her to get the time, which I successfully did.

Now to my point. These stories per se are not important, and I suspect that one minute after reading this, you will forget them. What I hope you won’t forget is the big question about what’s going on with the quality of work in today’s workplaces. In my experience there are too many loose ends, too many tasks undone, too little confidence in worker competence, and so on. Is it because of outsourcing, and if yes, what about outsourcing? Is it because companies are cutting back on worker training? Or perhaps there is more of an attitude of the customer be damned in some segments of the business arena?

I don’t know the answer, and I sure wish I did. What I do know is that I am scared. Real scared. Please, someone out there, tell me a story and give me an answer that ends with “happily ever after!”

The Fine Art of Listening

I came upon a valuable post today about listening. The author, Jim Morrison, makes the very valid point that listening is the Rodney Dangerfield of communication skills, and The Most Neglected Skill at Work. The irony of this is stunning when you consider that listening accounts for an estimated 44 — 46% of daily communication time. Compare this with writing: 8 to 10%, reading: 14 to 16%, and speaking: 29 to 31%.

I teach business communications courses at a local university, and I do include a unit on listening along with an assignment. But, after pondering Jim’s comments, I think I shall expand this unit in the future. I also plan to design and offer a course on listening for my Donovan-Wright Associates education offerings.

Thanks, Jim, for bringing to our attention a sadly undervalued skill.


Writing Auditions?

Whoa! I just finished reading a post from Yo Prinzel who has become my personal hero — at least for the day. First, we all know the freelance writing biz is, shall we say, like standing on the shoreline of a great body of water and hoping desperately to get to the other side despite hurricane winds and 30 foot waves. In other words, the journey to find and get work is, interesting.

Now, get this, the woman I mention here came across and applied for  a $7000 gig on Elance  (I am not a fan). All went well — resume, writing samples, application — and she was in the running along with three other writers — and impressive feat in the stormy seas of Elance.

Now for the clincher: the company rep required that each finalist write a three to five page rewrite — FOR FREE!! My hero withdrew from the running because:

“It isn’t practical for a writer to give every prospective client a free sample. It is cost prohibitive, supplies the potential client with free content that the writer would normally get paid for, and should not be necessary when samples and recommendations are available.”


“Asking for a free sample that will take hours to complete shows a disrespect for the writer’s professional experience, time and talent. If you were really blown away by a writer’s samples and experience, you would have the respect necessary to hire based on that. Since that is not the case, I would guess you haven’t found the right writer yet and I will just take myself out of the running while thanking you for your consideration.”

Now the question becomes, was she stupid to blow this gig off? In my opinion, she did not “blow it off.” She simply took a good look at serious indicators that this gig could be a setup for personal and professional disaster. Reason? If  a company exploits the hungry and needy just because they can, what does that portend for how they will treat these same in the future?

Not good, not good at all. Go for good karma, folks and screw the slavery.

Diane Schuler: Now it Makes Sense

The Diance Schuler case — about the young woman who barrelled down the Taconic Highway in Westchester County the wrong way, killing eight including 4 children in her car. This case has riveted me, and I often think about the missing links, the round peg to replace the square one that wouldn’t fit in the hole. For months her husband, Danny, and the charlatan of a lawyer he hired, proclaimed from the mountaintops to all who would (and wouldn’t) listen that Diane Schuler was not a lush, that Diane Schuler drank very rarely, and that Diane Schuler had never, ever, been drunk.

Well, slam, bam, no-thank-you m’am, burst that balloon with a bang. At long last, as I knew would eventually happen, someone has come forth, Diane’s sister-in-law no less, on record with her statement that Diane used pot — every day, and that Diane was a drinker — a heavy one.

And so there went those innocent children on that July day, the lambs to the lion. And there went those good and strong men, smashed by a woman who never saw it coming. Everyone else did.

For me, the sister-in-law’s statement gives resolution to the non-mystery that remained a mystery because no one came forward. But now I feel betrayed — betrayed by Danny who is out to save his body, soul, and more valiantly, the privacy of his survivor son. Mostly, I feel betrayed by Diane, the “amazing” mother, professional woman, and whatever else she was, who drowned her pain, sorrow, and stress in a sea of liquor and a fog of marijuana.


Golden Tunnel

Today the street was lined with walls of leaves, golden in the late afternoon sun. Encased as in a cacoon  I am  lulled by the illusion of permanent warmth and safety. Soon, though, these piles will be white, and cold, and dangerous.

Staring at the Wall

I am sitting here, staring at the wall, counting ladybugs. It’s that time of year, those few weeks when the sun is warm inside, cool outside, and the throngs of ladybugs somehow find their way into the sunny spots in my house. In fact, there were so many of them the other day that one was swimming around in my wine. I felt sure the poor dear wouldn’t make it, but make it she did, with nary a stagger as she forged her way across the table once rescued.

I am staring at the wall today because I am starting to feel the exiting remnants of the flu that goes oink and I am feeling like I should be doing something only I don’t feel like doing anything other than writing something inane like this.

So I am glad to have these ladybugs for company on this late fall afternoon, and maybe tomorrow I’ll feel like doing something.