Powerball Frenzy: Dopamine Dreaming

Powerball3Today is the big day!  Yes, the record breaking $1.5 billion Powerball drawing will take place later tonight and somebody’s life will dramatically change.

Just a day after President Obama’s final State of the Union address, the real talk on the web and in social media will likely be this humongous lottery jackpot.  And for me, I am actually excited to get away from Obama bashing, Trump tirades, racial hatred, political memes and yes, the millions of cat and dog photos on Facebook.

powerball-logoMind you, I am not typically a Powerball ticket purchaser.  Not even occasionally such.  But, there are times when I give in and spend a specific budgeted amount to get a couple of them.  Why? For the entertainment value – the opportunity to let my dopamine kick in and do a little dreaming.  Don’t we do that when we spend $14/person to go see a Star Wars movie in 3D?  The joy of the “What if” is pleasurable and gets my mind, if only for a brief few days, off of all of the other banter from Social Media and the news.

KYLotteryTo be sure, I am fully aware that my true chances of taking home the $1.5 billion ($900 million cash upfront minus taxes — maybe about $500 million) is next to not even being slimmly nil.  The odds of getting all six numbers correct, which never change, are slightly more than 292.2 million to 1 (in other words, there are 292.2 million possible combinations of the five white balls and red Powerball. That’s where the one in 292.2 million odds comes from, and they stay the same regardless of how big the jackpot grows or how many people buy tickets).  Let’s face it, our finite minds cannot really fathom numbers in the millions.  So, here are some other things that I may actually have a better chance at than winning the Powerball jackpot….

Here are 10 things more likely to happen to people than winning the lottery.

Getting struck by lightning in any given year: 1 in 1,190,000, according to the National Weather Service.

Dying after being bitten or struck by a dog: 1 in 103,798, according to the National Safety Council.

Hitting a hole in one for an amateur golfer: 1 in 12,500, according to Golf Digest.

Being attacked by a shark: 1 in 11.5 million, according to the International Shark Attack File.

Being fatally struck by an asteroid or comet falling to Earth: 1 in 75,000, according to a Tulane University study.

Being dealt a royal flush in poker: 1 in 649,740, according to Central Washington University.

A woman giving birth to twins: 33.3 in 1,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and 

Dying of a bee, wasp or hornet sting: 1 in 75,852, according to the National Safety Council.

Dying in a plane crash: 1 in 8 million, according to OSHA.

Living to 100 years old in the United States: 1.73 in 10,000, according to the 2010 Census Special Report.

IMG_7132In fact, there is another item that many participate in that has worse odds. Your odds of finishing with a perfect NCAA men’s tournament bracket.Basically, according to some, you have a 1 in 1,610,543,269 chance of calling every game right. A professor at DePaul University has done a different calculation…he says the odds are:

1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808

There are 63 total games in a tournament bracket. For each of those games, two teams play, and one team wins. So, filling out a bracket consists of picking 63 winners. So, you have two options for the first game, two options for the second game, two options for the third game, and so on, for all 63 games. To get the total number of possible ways to fill out a bracket, you multiply together all 63 of these twos, giving us 263, or 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 possible brackets. If all of these brackets are equally likely — if each game in the entire tournament is a 50-50 tossup, and picking the winner is basically a coin flip — we then get the odds of a correct bracket at one in 9.2 quintillion. HA!

WHAT IS THE DOPAMINE THING?

powerball-lottery-winners-1A recent article in the San Jose Mercury News focused on how the lottery can kick dopamine into gear. According to the article:

“It’s the brain chemical associated with reward, pleasure and addiction. And it’s digging into pockets at a maddening pace this week when the California lottery expects to sell $60 million in Powerball tickets — 10 times what it sells on a typical week.

Thanks a lot, dopamine. Whether the jackpot is $9 million or $900million, the odds of winning are stuck at a buzzkilling one in 292 million.”

With $1.5 billion up for grabs, it doesn’t take a neuroscientist to explain how people may be ignoring probability this week because of the way the brain processes risk and reward.

“In the brain stem of a gambler, dopamine neurons are firing very high, pushing them to put out the money, to go and buy the ticket,” said a professor of neurology at UC San Francisco.

IMG_6654I too feel that dopamine rush as I dream of the “What If” options. I consider the entire process…signing the ticket, getting a safe deposit box, getting lawyers and a financial team.  I think about how to allocate the money.  What charities will I be able to pass some on to?  Which family members?

Then comes the fun part…how would I spend the money?  Would we buy a big compound in the mountains and add solar and wind energy?  Would we take a year long cruise? How would we tell our children and what would we do for them?

IMG_6541And to me, the pleasure lasts longer than a Star Wars movie and costs less.  It is fun to have the occasional dopamine dreams. Reality tells me that I don’t have a chance whatsoever.  But, I have a better chance if I buy a ticket. If I don’t buy a ticket, I most certainly won’t win.  But only this time.  I am participating in history!

Money, Money, Money…ain’t it funny, in a rich man’s world.  I am running down a dream and, as Aerosmith sings… Dream On!

But only this time….

A Review: The Navy SEAL Art of War by Rob Roy

(Author’s Note: You can order “The Navy SEAL Art of War” on Amazon.com)

Rob-Roy-300x232

Former Navy SEAL Rob Roy

When you meet Rob Roy, you have no idea that this man served as a Navy SEAL and was a charismatic leader in that organization He spent twenty years (including time with the famed SEAL Team Six) in the SEALs. When you shake hands with this gentleman, you don’t feel the burning fire in his bosom that exudes when he trains executives in a Boot Camp fashion in his 80 hour intensive leadership course that uses military combat training to teach executives the leadership skills they need for success. Its an amazing difference.

Rob Roy

Rob Roy in combat gear

Rob Roy the person is an enigma. But, as a former soldier he was ruthless and was the ultimate team player. You can get a sense of this from the first lines of his new book titled “The Navy SEAL Art of War.”

For me, a teenager during the Vietnam War era, war and war methodologies were never appealing.  However, while at Northern Arizona University and focusing my studies on Asian History and Geography, I took a course on geopolitics and first learned of Sun Tzu’s “Art of War” as well as others like Claus von Clausewitz “On War” and Macchiavelli “The Prince.” I became fascinated by the strategies of Ho Chi Minh, Che Guevara and Mao and by the time I was in my Master’s course work in Political Science at Arizona State University, I was totally engrossed in learning insurgency strategies and guerrilla tactics.  So, my ideas on war have changed over the years.

Navy Seal AoW

The Navy SEAL Art of War is now available on Amazon.com. Click above for more

At the very beginning, in his introduction to the book, Rob Roy tells the story of Paulo, a man who is used to being the guy who tells everybody else what to do. We learn that this business leader was ashen and visibly failing, with sweat sliding down the worn creases of a weathered brow. This restaurant magnate in his mid-40s, who had successfully built a business and was a great leader in his industry, was emotionally and physically broken.

And this introduces us to the Boot Camp mentality of Rob Roy’s Special Operations Training Groups (SOT-G) that undergo his “Leadership Under Fire Training” program, which has a unique no-holds-barred and no-ego-spared process  that will either make or break a successful individual.
Sun Tzu

Sun Tzu

Roy’s book has over 50 small anecdotal chapters and was designed after Sun Tzu’s “Art of War.” Each chapter unfolds story after story of experiences from the Navy SEALs. He relates experiences of teamwork, leadership, mental toughness, humility, attention to detail and a myriad other attributes.

But don’t be mistaken.  Though the stories are indicative of military training and experience, they are really life stories. Each small chapter provides a new building block to help construct one’s life towards better leadership and management of one’s self and others.
I am especially impressed by his chapter titled “Have Servant’s Heart.” In this chapter he details the importance of a true leader actually serving those whom he/she leads. The passionate care about the well-being of subordinates has proven vital in the careers of the most successful leaders.  Serving others with dignity and nobility is a fabulous trait.
Retired Marines General James N. "Mad Dog" Mattis

Retired Marines General James N. “Mad Dog” Mattis

In another chapter Rob Roy emphasizes how former Marine General James “Mad Dog” Mattis, who was considered to be a ruthless warrior-statesman, would make sacrifices for his soldiers, even to the point of doing things way below his pay grade, just so that his younger soldiers and officers would be able to spend time with their families during holidays.  General Mattis was an example of vigilance, discipline, professionalism, innovation, lifelong learning and leadership.

Perhaps the most poignant and important chapter to me is the one titled “There Is No Finish Line.” When people ask me how I’m doing, I always say “I’m awesome, but getting better,” a concept I developed from years of working with Japanese companies and learning of the unique principle Kaizen (Continual Improvement). Masaaki Imai, the father of Kaizen is known for great ideas such as “When you solve one problem, you will see ten more,” or “Kaizen is everyday improvement, everybody improvement, everywhere improvement.” The whole idea is that there is always room for improvement. And Rob Roy teaches the same principle in this chapter. The opening paragraph to the chapter says it all:
Kaizen

Kaizen – Continual Improvement

Instead of looking for the finish line, tell yourself there is no such thing. Instead, constantly immerse yourself in (and learn from) the journey. And continually be prepared for what’s just around the corner.

I have had the great opportunity to meet Rob Roy and personally discuss some of my own challenges with him.  Indeed, it was his book that inspired me to get into high gear and begin my weight loss journey a few weeks ago (see blog post here). I have taken the “No Finish Line” philosophy in my goal to gain my health back and get in shape. Rob has been an inspiration and the chapters of his book continue to help drive me forward on the journey. In fact, I have created my own “team” in the form of Team Sumoflam that is loaded with friends and family (including Mr. Roy!!) that provide the needed encouragement and drive to succeed in this journey.
David "Sumoflam" Kravetz with Rob Roy

David “Sumoflam” Kravetz with Rob Roy

The Navy SEAL Art Of War” will inspire and will provide emotional and mental nourishment to your soul as you progress through each chapter. Rob Roy has thoughtfully authored a book that will help you know who you are.
The reality is that it takes hard, continuous work to really know oneself; to know one’s strengths and weaknesses. But smart leaders find the same energy, passion, and competitiveness that they apply to the challenges in their everyday lives and they routinely turn it inward – focusing on knowing themselves better in order to gain a leadership advantage.
Chock full of good wisdom, the Navy SEAL Art of War is an excellent read!  Order it today!!

The Selfie King – The Art of the Selfie

The Ultimate Selfie

The Ultimate Selfie – Alligator, Mississippi, June 2014

This is all about “The Art of the Selfie.” I have taken hundreds of them and love doing so.  In 2013 the Oxford Dictionaries announced their word of the year to be “selfie”, which they define as “a photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.” As most of us know, the “selfie” has become a very popular form of sharing one’s activities, travels and a photograph with one’s friends, family and the world.  Though taking self-portraits has been around since the birth of photography (Robert Cornelius, a pioneer in photography, produced a daguerreotype of himself in 1839), since the mid 2000s, and especially since 2010, the genre has exploded, thanks to the proliferation of social media.

Clowning Around (Sumoelton)

Clowning Around (Sumoelton) – taken at home, Halloween 2012

I have always been one that wanted to have my picture taken wherever I went, more as a record, but in the past couple of years, with the new technologies that smart devices provide us, I’ve been very active in taking selfies without having to have other people interact with me. Honestly, with the posting of all these selfies, one might think that I am self absorbed. But that is not really the truth. I enjoy sharing the joy and excitement of the places that I have been and the activities that I have participated in.

Selfie with a HUGE potato at a drive-in theater in Driggs, Idaho

Selfie with a HUGE potato at a drive-in theater in Driggs, Idaho – March 2013

Even as a young boy I was always fascinated with being in front of the camera. Over the years I’ve had numerous “goofy” pictures taken of me and I’ve even taken a few “selfies” on my own. Here are a few “non-selfies” from years gone by.

My first "selfie" using a mirror.  I was at a barber shop in Japan when this bird landed on my shoulder.  I took it from an angle

My first “selfie” using a mirror. I was at a barber shop in Japan when this bird landed on my shoulder. I took it from an angle.  Taken in 1977 in Ogaki, Japan

I took this "selfie" in Jemez Springs, NM in Dec. 1978 - Turned the camera towards me and "point and shoot"

I took this “selfie” in Jemez Springs, NM in Dec. 1978 – Turned the camera towards me and “point and shoot”

Mirror image - used my cell phone to take a mirrored selfie at Colter Bay Village in Grand Teton National Park, March 2013

Mirror image – used my cell phone to take a mirrored selfie at Colter Bay Village in Grand Tetons National Park, March 2013

Kewpie Hair - took this after a nap with wet hair - taken in the mirror with my cell phone

Kewpie Hair – took this after a nap with wet hair – taken in the mirror with my cell phone – July 2014

Nowadays, it seems like I take them wherever I’m at, whether I’m traveling across the country or whether I’m with my grandchildren. Taking selfies is fun for me and fun for those around me (I hope).  But they also have become a great way of documenting trips and events.

Real Quiet Lane, Lexington, KY - October 2013

Real Quiet Lane, Lexington, KY -November 2013

In May and June I took two trips across the United States. The first trip was north to Michigan and across four states to Montana to see my daughter and her family. From there I returned south into Wyoming and across Wyoming, Nebraska, Illinois and Missouri to return home. On the second trip I drove south through Tennessee Mississippi and Texas and then back home through Arkansas, Missouri and Illinois.

Friendship, Arkansas - July 2014

Friendship, Arkansas – July 2014

On both of these trips I took close to 100 selfies each. Many of these were posted in Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr and some of my travel blog posts at lessbeatenpaths.com. As I moved across the states, friends and family were able to follow me (probably to the point of overkill). Of course, anyone that follows my adventures knows that I also like to ham it up in many of my selfies.  Always more fun.

Bison and Sumobison, Havre, Montana - May 2014

Bison and Sumobison, Havre, Montana – May 2014

In this post, I have no intention of posting all 150 or 200 of my selfies from those trips, but I am going to post a selection of them that I found fun and interesting. I will include the location and, if there is a back story, I’ll include a little of that as well. At the end of the post, I am also going to include a few of my other favorites from past trips.

Sumoflam with Hiawatha, the largest statue of a native American in the U.S. This was taken in Ironwood, MI in May 2014

Sumoflam with Hiawatha, the largest statue of a native American in the U.S. This was taken in Ironwood, MI in May 2014

I had the opportunity to visit my cousin Lew in Austin, TX in June 2014.  This is the famous Welcome to Austin mural

I had the opportunity to visit my cousin Lew in Austin, TX in June 2014. This is the famous Greetings from Austin mural

Big Fish Supper Club in Bena, Minnesota. Taken in May 2014

Big Fish Supper Club in Bena, Minnesota. Taken in May 2014

Pink Elephant in DeForest, Wisconsin - May 2014

Pink Elephant in DeForest, Wisconsin – May 2014

Not only do I find pink elephants with glasses, I can find big cows with PINK glasses - this was in Russellville, KY in June 2014

Not only do I find pink elephants with glasses, I can find big cows with PINK glasses – this was in Russellville, KY in June 2014

Bucksnort, Tennessee in June 2014

Bucksnort, Tennessee in June 2014

With Chief Washakie in Cody, Wyoming - May 2014

With Chief Washakie in Cody, Wyoming – May 2014

At Mammy's Cupboard Cafe in Natchez, Mississippi in June 2014.  Yes, I ate in that place too...unique looking place

At Mammy’s Cupboard Cafe in Natchez, Mississippi in June 2014. Yes, I ate in that place too…unique looking place

A star shining brightly at Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska in May 2014

A star shining brightly at Carhenge in Alliance, Nebraska in May 2014

Sumoflam visits the Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX in June 2014

Sumoflam visits the Tee Pee Motel in Wharton, TX in June 2014

Personally, I think that the selfie has become a great form of “journal keeping.” These are things that will allow family and friends to look back and see what we have done. I think that too many people don’t document the things that they have done and then we lose that personal history.

At the corner of This Way and That Way in Lake Jackson, Texas - June 2014

At the corner of This Way and That Way in Lake Jackson, Texas – June 2014

Wyoming's Wildlife - yes, probably me...  taken at a rest area on US Highway 20 about 40 miles west of Casper, WY in May 2014

Wyoming’s Wildlife – yes, probably me… taken at a rest area on US Highway 20 about 40 miles west of Casper, WY in May 2014

Visiting Rock City near Valier, Montana in May 2014

Visiting Rock City near Valier, Montana in May 2014

I always endeavor to find unique places for selfies and just for a visit.  This was Endeavor, WI in May 2014

I always endeavor to find unique places for selfies and just for a visit. This was Endeavor, WI in May 2014

Sumoflamalope (a mix between a Sumoflam and a Jackalope.  Taken in Douglas, WY in May 2014

Sumoflamalope (a mix between a Sumoflam and a Jackalope. Taken in Douglas, WY in May 2014

Some gator teeth and me at P'maws Bait Shop in Pierre Part, Louisiana - June 2014

Some gator teeth and me at P’maws Bait Shop in Pierre Part, Louisiana – June 2014

With the old Paul Bunyan statue (built in 1937) in Bemidji, MN in May 2014

With the old Paul Bunyan statue (built in 1937) in Bemidji, MN in May 2014

Visiting the giant pyramid in Nekoma, ND in May 2014

Visiting the giant pyramid in Nekoma, ND in May 2014

With Sam Houston's head in Huntsville, Texas in June 2014

With Sam Houston’s head in Huntsville, Texas in June 2014

Naturally, when I travel, no matter when it is, I have my cameras on the ready.  In the past couple of years I try to also get photos with state signs and unique town signs. Here are a few from trips over the past couple of years.

Welcome to Winner, South Dakota.  Always great to be a Winner (and they had a major lottery winner in that town too!!) Taken in June 2013

Welcome to Winner, South Dakota. Always great to be a Winner (and they had a major lottery winner in that town too!!) Taken in June 2013

I meandered into Okay, Oklahoma in November 2012

I meandered into Okay, Oklahoma in November 2012

A visit to North Carolina in April 2013.  We actually took a trip to South Carolina and Georgia as well.

A visit to North Carolina in April 2013. We actually took a trip to South Carolina and Georgia as well.

Smile, you are in Pennsylvania...so I smiled in July 2013

Smile, you are in Pennsylvania…so I smiled in July 2013

Went through Nebraska on my to see Carhenge in May 2014

Went through Nebraska on my to see Carhenge in May 2014

Arriving in Texas on my way from Colorado and heading to Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo in June 2013

Arriving in Texas on my way from Colorado and heading to Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo in June 2013

Rudyard, Montana - and no, I am not the Old Sore Head...  May 2014

Rudyard, Montana – and no, I am not the Old Sore Head… May 2014

Welcome to Louisiana in June 2014

Welcome to Louisiana in June 2014

In Lost Springs, Wyoming (Population 4) in May 2014.

In Lost Springs, Wyoming (Population 4) in May 2014.

Had to visit the town of Cut and Shoot, Texas north of Conroe, just for a photo op with their City Hall and the town name - taken in June 2014

Had to visit the town of Cut and Shoot, Texas north of Conroe, just for a photo op with their City Hall and the town name – taken in June 2014

Naturally, I had to visit the birthplace of one of my favorite characters, Kermit the Frog, in Leland, Mississippi in June 2014

Naturally, I had to visit the birthplace of one of my favorite characters, Kermit the Frog, in Leland, Mississippi in June 2014

Route 61, the Blues Highway in Mississippi in May 2014

Route 61, the Blues Highway in Mississippi in June 2014

Heading to Carhenge in May 2014

Heading to Carhenge in May 2014

Welcome to Arkansas in June 2014

Welcome to Arkansas in June 2014

Then there are my ham it up, goofy and whimsical selfies that I love to take.  Here are a few from previous road trips and at home, around movie theaters, and other odds and ends for fun.

Bull headed at the Frontier Steak House in Dunkirk, Montana in March 2013

Bull headed at the Frontier Steak House in Dunkirk, Montana in March 2013

The Hodag and Sumoflam in Rhinelander, WI in August 2012

The Hodag and Sumoflam in Rhinelander, WI in August 2012

Home of the Hamburger - with the Charles Nagreen Statue in Seymour, Wisconsin, August 2012

Home of the Hamburger – with the Charles Nagreen Statue in Seymour, Wisconsin, August 2012

At the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tennessee in June 2014

At the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Tennessee in June 2014

At the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas in June 2014

At the Eiffel Tower in Paris, Texas in June 2014

Being chomped by a Transformer Dinosaur at the movie theater in Lexington - July 2014

Being chomped by a Transformer Dinosaur at the movie theater in Lexington – July 2014

Escaping a T-Rex in Choteau, Montana in May 2014

Escaping a T-Rex in Choteau, Montana in May 2014

Within reach of the amazing metal dragon from Jurustic Park in Marshfield, WI in August 2012

Within reach of the amazing metal dragon from Jurustic Park in Marshfield, WI in August 2012

Being stomped by a giant dinosaur at the Indianapolis Children's Museum in September 2013

Being stomped by a giant dinosaur at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum in September 2013

Under a Fire-breathing Dragon in Vandalia, IL in September 2013

Under a Fire-breathing Dragon in Vandalia, IL in September 2013

Cuddling with a troll in Mt. Horeb, WI in August 2012

Cuddling with a troll in Mt. Horeb, WI in August 2012

Almost didn't see the stop sign covered in snow at the "Top of the World Store" in the Beartooth Range at 10,000 feet in May 2014

Almost didn’t see the stop sign covered in snow at the “Top of the World Store” in the Beartooth Range at 10,000 feet in May 2014

Suffering with Flamingo Pink Eye at the former Lynn's Paradise Cafe in Louisville in December 2012

Suffering with Flamingo Pink Eye at the former Lynn’s Paradise Cafe in Louisville in December 2012

Took a SumoGothic photo in Eldon, Iowa at the house used in the painting American Gothic in September 2013

Took a SumoGothic photo in Eldon, Iowa at the house used in the painting American Gothic in September 2013

Being corny at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD in April 2013

Being corny at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD in April 2013

Selfie with the Caddies of Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX in June 2013

Selfie with the Caddies of Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, TX in June 2013

Peek a Boo from behind an umbrella at Cave Run Lake in Kentucky in June 2013

Peek a Boo from behind an umbrella at Cave Run Lake in Kentucky in June 2013

Then there are my references to Antsy McClain…my good friend and favorite singer/songwriter….

Livin' the Dream - taken at a Hobby Lobby in December 2013 - refers to Antsy's CD of the same name

Livin’ the Dream – taken at a Hobby Lobby in December 2013 – refers to Antsy’s CD of the same name

Juxtaposed Antsy's Living the Dream CD with my face in July 2012

Juxtaposed Antsy’s Living the Dream CD with my face in July 2012

A "dualie" with Antsy McClain taken in 2013

An “usie” with Antsy McClain taken in 2013

Everything's a Dollar - in reference to an Antsy McClain song of the same name

Everything’s a Dollar – in reference to an Antsy McClain song of the same name

Enjoy the Ride - The Aluminum Rule from the Antsy McClain song "Living in Aluminum"

Enjoy the Ride – The Aluminum Rule from the Antsy McClain song “Living in Aluminum”

And just a few more goofball selfies to round out this post…

I get the point at Gronk's in Superior, Wisconsin in May 2014

I get the point at Gronk’s in Superior, Wisconsin in May 2014

Hanging with the Tin Family in North Dakota's Enchanted Highway in June 2013

Hanging with the Tin Family in North Dakota’s Enchanted Highway in June 2013

With a bottle of "Route Beer" at Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, IL in August 2013

With a bottle of “Route Beer” at Rabbit Ranch in Staunton, IL in August 2013

And how about some Ice Cream with that "Route Beer"... in Peoria, IL

And how about some Ice Cream with that “Route Beer”… at Twistee Treat in Peoria, IL

I always like to get a selfie at unusual places, like Stoner Drug in Hamburg, Iowa

I always like to get a selfie at unusual places, like Stoner Drug in Hamburg, Iowa

Or with famous things like the car used in American Pickers. This is in LeClaire, Iowa

Or with famous things like the car used in American Pickers. This is in LeClaire, Iowa

Took this at a place that had a bunch of totem poles made with chainsaws, in Wisconsin

Took this at a place that had a bunch of totem poles made with chainsaws, in Wisconsin

The Artsy side of me likes to get selfies where I "kind of" fit in....  This was in Council Bluffs, Iowa in August 2013

The Artsy side of me likes to get selfies where I “kind of” fit in…. This was in Council Bluffs, Iowa in August 2013

I recently read that there are now words being created for group “selfies,” with “usie” being one of the more common names, but other names are used as well.  here are a few “usie” pix I have gotten over the past couple of years….

David and Julianne at Corn Palace in South Dakota in 2012

The best “usies” are with my wife Julianne, this one at Corn Palace in South Dakota in 2012

An 'usie" with travel writer and blogger Tui Snider from Texas in June 2014

An “usie” with travel writer and blogger Tui Snider from Texas in June 2014

This "usie" is with Troy Landry, one of the stars of the History Channel's "Swamp People" series.  He hunts gators near Pierre Part, Louisiana.  I got this with him at his Dad's bait shop in Pierre Part in June 2014

This “usie” is with Troy Landry, one of the stars of the History Channel’s “Swamp People” series. He hunts gators near Pierre Part, Louisiana. I got this with him at his Dad’s bait shop in Pierre Part in June 2014

An "usie" with Danielle Colby from American Pickers taken in 2012

An “usie” with Danielle Colby from American Pickers taken in 2012

An "usie" with world renown guitarist Tommy Emmanuel

An “usie” with world renown guitarist Tommy Emmanuel

Naturally, as a grandfather of nine, I get a number of “usie” photos with my grandchildren.  My next “selfie” post will include quite a few of them, but, in closing, here are just a couple of my all time favorites to include in this first post.

With some of the grandkids in the car on the way to a movie

With some of the grandkids in the car on the way to a movie

Hamming it up with my East Coast grandson Rockwell

Hamming it up with my East Coast grandson Rockwell

A couple of the grandkids with Grandma and Grampz

A couple of the grandkids with Grandma and Grampz

Teaching my granddaughter Lyla to drive

Teaching my granddaughter Lyla to drive

Wnjoying time with my West Coast grandkids in Montana

Enjoying time with my West Coast grandkids in Montana

On that note I will end by noting that I am grateful for the wizardry of technology that allows us to do these “selfies” and “usies” and share them with the world. Photography has become fun and documenting one’s life has become more fun. Wizardry is fun…right Gandalf?

Sumoflam and Gandalf "usie"

Sumoflam and Gandalf “usie”

So, with that being said, I will probably have a couple more posts in the future of other selfies and most certainly of some family “usies.”

Why I Love My Job



Why I Love My Job

Why I Love My Job

Working at iHigh.com

This week (March 15) I hit the six month mark as an
employee of iHigh.com, Inc.
This has been a momentous six months for me as I have found enjoyment and
fulfillment in a job more than I have enjoyed since my days as a tour guide in
Flagstaff, AZ from 1981-1984.  This fulfillment doesn’t come from the money
I make. I have discovered that I am happy as can be with my job because every day
brings me a new example of fulfillment and meaning.  These two things are so much more valuable than any financial compensation.

On the job in
Kansas City

(photo
courtesy of
J. Morrison Photography
)

 

I have written in earlier blogs about the difficulties I
experienced for most of 2009. So, imagine my excitement when the opportunity to interview for a position at
iHigh.com came along. What a thrill when I was offered a position.  My initial
responsibility was to make phone calls to set appointments at schools.  But, as
time progressed and new opportunities for me to utilize my many skills arose, I
took advantage of them.  Soon I as writing tutorials and then training schools. 
Before long I was doing tech support and am currently in that role…both tech
support and training.

As I look back over the years at my various jobs, I can see
that, in a sense, I was prepared for this job.  I have done web design and
support, video production and editing, customer support, tech support (at the
call center ironically), project management.  For five years I managed a high
school football team website and ran the score clock and had two boys play high
school football and two girls in basketball.  The boys were also in wrestling…so
I also understand the high school experience.  I honestly believe that this job
is a perfect fit for me and I for it.  And I love it.

Obviously, it is fun working in a job where I can watch and
talk sports all day, yet also do the “techie” things.  But what I really love is
the opportunity to talk to coaches, administrators and teachers across the
country.  I get to assist them in getting their sites up and running.  I get to
hear their excitement when things are going well on their sites.  I get to see
the results of my labors and those of other me individuals in the office.  It is
also rewarding to see all of the data that indicates how quickly the company is
growing. I LOVE THIS JOB!! 

HAVING FUN ON THE JOB

One of the joys of this job is being able to watch high
school sports and get paid for it.  Over the last week I have watched a number
of girls’ high school basketball games as I monitored the
Kentucky High School Athletic
Association
(KHSAA) Girls’ State Championships.  There were a
total of
15 games played
, culminating in the championship game last night which
Mercy Academy
from Louisville defeated
Scott County
from Georgetown.  There was so much excitement in the air that
I could even feel it while watching over a laptop monitor.  During the last six
months I have also watched hockey, baseball, softball, lacrosse, swimming,
wrestling and other high school sports.  The widget below tells the story.

KHSAA Widget

STATISTICS AND DATA

When I was in 5th grade at Spring Valley
Elementary School in Richardson, TX (back in 1966) I began my illustrious career
in statistics.  Back then I would walk from my house on Flagstone Way to Coit
Rd., and then walk up Coit Rd. to Spring Valley Rd. to the 7-11 mart every day. 
I would pick up my Black Cow sucker (a chocolate covered caramel sucker that was
to die for) and would get a paper bag, go out to the soda machine and empty out
all the pop bottle caps into the bag and take them home.  In those days there
were no canned sodas.  Everything was in glass bottles and they had those metal
caps that had to be opened with a bottle opener. Then, each day I would separate
them, line them up and count them.  I logged the statistics.  Coke and Pepsi
always battled it out and Dr. Pepper was not far behind.  There was also 7-UP,
Nesbitt’s, some kind of root beer and other assorted drinks.  For some reason
I thought they were like money to me.

 
 
 

As I grew older I had other obsessions: sitting in my room
with my AM Radio in Denver in 1968 scrolling through each station and
documenting call letters and locations.  On good days I could get radio from
Washington, California, Nebraska and even Chicago; as a junior in high school I
had a job as a dishwasher and counted the forks vs. the spoons vs. the knives. 
The spoons almost always won; then there are many times I would stand by the
road counting the trucks vs the cars or the Chevys vs the Fords, etc.  Even in
my married years I kept a running tally of Scrabble scores between my wife and
I.  I even had averages, highest word scores, highest game scores, etc.—I still
have that book!!; and to this day I still pick up shampoo bottles, toothpaste
containers, cereal boxes, etc., and have competitions between the number of
vowels and numbers of consonants.  I know, pretty obsessive behavior….

 
 

Counting radio
stations, silverware, cars

 

But that brings me to the second joy of this job…the data. 
Instead of pop bottle caps, I am always monitoring page views and unique
visits.  It is fun for me to watch the visits add up and see which schools are
getting more visits and uniques.  I then try to understand why they are getting
them so I can assist other schools in doing the same.  I probably check out the
unique hits chart once an hour…way more than I should.  I have been doing
that for my own sites for a couple of years.  Now I do it daily and really
do like to see the growth of the company and the interest in the content around
the country from school to school.

 

Schools advertise
their sites: Center HS in Kansas City, MO; Birdville HS in Ft. Worth, TX

 

HUMAN INTEREST STORIES

I must admit though, the real love of the job is coming
through many of the experiences I have enjoyed in the last six months.  The
rewards come in the people I meet and the stories that site administrators share with me…stories that
let me realize how much the iHigh.com experience is benefiting a diversity of
people…not just the schools and the students, but also parents, family members,
friends and others.  I have seen two kinds of effects.  First would be the great
stories of family members who are able to watch their children/grandchildren,
etc., from far away.  The second would be the effect on students who are gaining
great opportunities by participating in broadcasts as videographers or play by
play announcers.

Hanging with
members of North
Dallas High School Booster Club
in Dallas

(L-R: Gil Sandoval,
David Kravetz, John Chavez)

 

Following are just a few of these fascinating stories:

Cary Academy, in Cary, NC:  This was probably the first
story I had heard from an administrator.  Cary Academy is a small private school
in Cary, NC and their volleyball team had qualified for the playoffs.  They had
signed up for iHigh in order to be able to do a live streaming broadcast of
their volleyball games.  The day after their first game was broadcast, one of
the administrators called me with great enthusiasm to let me know how parents of
one of his players were on a business trip and China and were able to see the
game.  This was great stuff!  He also said that he had heard from family members
of other players that relatives in Florida, New York and California were able to
watch. It was a thrill.

                                               
——————————————————————————

Center High School, Kansas City, MO: In January I had an
opportunity to travel to St. Louis and Kansas City for some iHigh work.  This
became my first opportunity to experience firsthand some of the human interest
stories that are creating a legacy for iHigh.  My first experience at Center was
when Brad Sweeten, the Athletic Director, introduced me to the four young men
who would assist with the video broadcasts.  We were to
broadcast a wrestling
tournament
all day (click on link for video):
six cameras on six mats with resets every two hours.  My
first thought was that these guys looked rough, kind of like gang members.  All
were football players.  But, as I spoke with them I could see they were bright
and willing to work.  And this they did…for over 9 hours they sat by the video
cameras, they switched sessions on time and did an excellent job.  Since that
time a couple of them have continued to work for Brad as cameramen on their
schools’ basketball games and other activities.  They are also learning to edit
video.

  

The Center video
staff

(photo
courtesy of
J. Morrison Photography
)

 

Then, during the event, as I sat at “iHigh Central” on the
stage I was approached by a wrestler who asked, “can my father who is in the
service in Afghanistan watch me wrestle?”  I said yes and told him how.  I
thought to myself…”This is what it is all about.”  But the one that really got
me was the young man who came to me shortly before the championship match.  He
had his cell phone in hand and came to me and said, “My grandfather is on the
phone.  He is in Ohio and has never seen me wrestle.  I will be in the
championship match and he would like to see me wrestle.  Can you tell him how to
watch?.”  I then walked his grandfather through it.  His grandfather then
watched his grandson in the tournament and then watched him get a medal.  This
was heartwarming and was more so when the young man came to me with such
gratitude afterward.  Indeed, that event alone made the long drive to Kansas
City well worth it.

iHigh Central

(photo
courtesy of
J. Morrison Photography
)

 

I later learned from Brad Sweeten that one of his JV
basketball boys has a father who is in Qatar in the service and was able to
watch his son play basketball….not varsity, but JV basketball.  He was thrilled
to death to be able to see a son who he dearly missed.

And here is a fun video from Center…a
human
center.ihigh.com

                                                                                           
——————————————————————————

High Energy Photos, Hi Hat KY – Down in SE Kentucky there
is a group associated with iHigh called High Energy Photos.  They photograph and
video many of the contests in and around Pikeville.  A few weeks ago they
provided coverage for a Pikeville High School Basketball game so that a father
stationed in Afghanistan could watch his son play for the first time this
season. His son is in his senior year. The family was allowed to say a few words
to the father during half-time and between games. His brother was extremely
appreciative and the mother wanted to also express her thanks, she said it was
the nicest thing anyone has ever let her do.  They were allowed to send some
LIVE greetings at half time.  It was touching.  You can see the video

here
. (advance to 45:00 into the video to see the family and here the
dedication)

On another occasion, during a girls’ home game this year,
 the visiting coach from Wolfe County had to leave upon arrival to the gym
because his wife had gone into labor and had been taken to Central Baptist
Hospital in Lexington, which is three hours away. The students sent out messages
during the broadcast wishing the best to the coach, his wife, and new addition
to the family from his staff and fans at the game. Before the end of the
evening, his assistant got the address for the broadcast so that they could tell
the coach where he could watch the coverage of the game and the archived
broadcast.

                                                                                            ——————————————————————————

Wheeler High School, Wheeler, IN: Wheeler has an exchange
student from Serbia who plays on their varsity basketball team. Each week his
parents are able to watch him play…using iHigh from Serbia.  He has a
teammate that is also from Serbia.  Apparently, the region around Wheeler,
Indiana draws many Serbians.

The stories go on and on.  And my personal relationships
with the ADs, teachers, coaches and booster members provide me the opportunity
to hear new stories like these on a weekly basis. Knowing that all of my efforts
are helping others to benefit makes it all worthwhile.


I LOVE MY JOB!

All photos and commentary expressed are copyright of Sumoflam Productions and David Kravetz. All rights reserved.

Here we are 30 years later

David & Julianne

30 years of wedded bliss

July 15, 1979 – July 15, 2009

 

 

July 15, 1979 – Jacob’s Lake, AZ near North Rim, Grand Canyon

 

Sometime in November 1978 – David, then 22, was on his way to work at J.C. Penney in Orem Mall in Orem, Utah.  His 1963 green VW bug would not start.  He had to take the bus.  Not knowing the schedule, he hurried to the bus stop.  Too late, he missed it.  At the same time, a young lady named Julianne, then 19, also missed the same bus.  David and Julianne met at this bus stop and found out we both worked at the same place — she in the cafeteria and he in the shoe department.  She let me know that her roommate was coming to pick her up and offered me a ride.  This was the first day of our relationship – we missed the bus to work, but, at that time, unbeknownst to us, we caught the bus that would take us to wedded bliss.

 

From that time through nearly Christmas, I would take a pilgrimage from the shoe department to the J.C. Penney cafeteria to order cherry cheesecake and to watch this new girl I had met.  At the bus stop I knew I had met someone special and found it interesting that she worked where I did.  But, I was shy and afraid of rejection, so I played it cool.  We both knew each other’s first names…mine David, hers Juli.  Our conversations were light and not in too much detail.  We were at the flirting stage.  I had even taken her home from work a couple of times, but that was about it.

 

Then, she was gone…I had lost my chance due to my own insecurities….or so I thought.

 

Journal entry, January 14, 1979 – “…this last week has been a most exciting time of my life. I have been very tired because a beautiful young lady has entered my life.  I knew Juli at work, but I never did too much because I was scared. — Oh, yes, her name is Juli Bateman.  She is 19 and is from Mesa, AZ.  She’s just my height and is a really pretty girl. The Lord couldn’t have blessed me any better.  Everyone even says that we look alike.”    She had been away and I thought I had lost her for good.  Then, on Thursday, January 4, I was walking through the Wilkinson Student Center at BYU she saw me, said “Hey” and went out of her way to come over and say hello.  “Right away I thought ‘How neat. She likes me and went out of her way to say hello.’ I was impressed.  She then told me that she had quit Penney’s.  So, I felt inside of me that I must her phone number.  I asked her and she gave it to me right away.”  I called her numerous times to invite her out, but she was never home.  When i finally did get hold of her, she didn’t know.  I was stupid, I had never told her my full name.  I reminded her of the JC Penney’s thing and sure enough, I had a date!!

 

Continued from January 14 – “The thing about Juli is — she is everything I want for a wife. She is pretty, she is loving, she is affectionate, she is spiritual. When I’m with her I’m proud to be with her….”

 

Journal entry, January 16, 1979 – “Yesterday, January 15, 1979 will be a day long remembered for me.  Last night at about 7:00 PM I asked Juli to marry me. She said yeas.  How wonderful it feels. This is how it went…I picked her up at 6:30 and we went up to Canyon Glen which is up in Provo Canyon.  It was snowing lightly but it was also very peaceful….”  “We talked of love and different kinds of it.  After we finished, we got out of the car and went for a walk.  The snow was about a foot deep and the stream could be heard loud and clear. We walked until we got to the edge of the stream.  I then had Juli sit down on the bench.  As she did, I got on my knees and told her of what love was…and that love had brought us together and that it was with love that I asked her to be my wife for time and all eternity,  I was shaking so much inside that it was hard to even talk.

 

This was the beginning of our wondrous and joyful experience of 30 years.

 

Our first “recorded” kiss – in front of the Provo, Utah LDS Temple

ca. March 1979

 

July 15, 1979 – Julianne were married in Mesa, Arizona and returned to Provo, Utah via Jacob’s Lake, AZ near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We then settled into our little apartment in Provo.  I started a new job making sandwiches at a shop near BYU campus. We both continued in school.

 

Our wedding photo – July 1979

Departing for Utah from Mesa.  Yes, we were tired and it was hot and we had the little VW

 

From that time forth, Julianne and I have traveled to diverse places, moved, gone to school in a few places, raised children…it has been a glorious life.

 

Soon after moving to Provo, there were some changes in the restaurant and by mid-October we made our way to Flagstaff, Arizona.  Nearly penniless, I finally found some employment.  We were living in the Alpine Motel, a dive of a place, but cheap.  We had no place to go, but we made it through.  I started a job as a busboy at the Little America Restaurant making $3.25/hr.  A few weeks later i was working 48 hours a week at a TG&Y Variety store for $3.75 and hour.  We also had insurance…and thank goodness.  our first child was on her way.  Throughout our days in Flagstaff we were blessed with friends, jobs and three lovely daughters.

 

Our 30 years of marriage are completely intertwined with with the lives of our children.  From the time Amaree was born in early 1980 to this day, we have taken our children all over the United States and even lived in Japan as a family.  Our youngest, Solomon was born in Oita, Japan.  It has been a blessed life.  Following are some of the photos of our lives through these 30 years…

 

  

Feb. 1980, Flagstaff, AZ with Amaree; late 1981, Mesa, AZ with Amaree & Marissa; 

Early 1982, Sedona, AZ with Marissa &Amaree

 

 

 late 1987, Kumamoto, Japan with 4 children (Seth on my back); March 1989, Oita, Japan with Seth & newborn Solomon

 

 

A couple of family photos while living in Oita, Japan ca. 1990 and 1991

 

 

L-Family with Oita Governor Hiramatsu & his wife, Jan. 1, 1991; Monument Valley, UT on our way to Kentucky in 1992

 

L-Green Gates Farm, Lexington, KY 1993; Family trip to Indiana ca 1996

 

Our family May 2009

(photograph courtesy of Kasey Mikelle Photography)

 

Our extended family May 2009

(photograph courtesy of Kasey Mikelle Photography)

 

But it has not just been family.  Julianne and I have been together for 30 years and are STILL on our honeymoon and more madly in love with each other than ever!!  Here are a few pictures of our adventures together over the years:

 

On a park bench in Seattle and a restaurant in Seattle

 

On a cruise ship in Seattle and at Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada

 

 

On the cruise to Alaska before dinner; Glacier Bay, Alaska

 

 

Hamming it up in Lexington, KY; Green Gates Farm in Lexington, KY

 

At a waterfall near Great Falls, MT with grandson Kade; at a waterfall near Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, Alaska

 

 

Enjoying time at a cabin in the mountains of Arizona; visiting Tulum Ruins in Yucatan, Mexico

 

At Seth’s high school graduation, Lexington, KY

Yes, I Married Up and my license plate tells the story (as do the shirts)

 

I am honored and blessed to have had my wonderful Julianne at my side for 30 years.  She is the joy of my life and this page is dedicated to her for her love for me, for our children, for our grandchildren.  We have struggled together, had joy together, traveled together and look forward to an eternity together.  Julianne is truly the love of my life.

 

Julianne and David, May 2009

(photograph courtesy of Kasey Mikelle Photography)

 

(photograph courtesy of Kasey Mikelle Photography)

 

David & Julianne

30 years of wedded bliss

July 15, 1979 – July 15, 2009

 

 

 

 

 

 

All photos and commentary expressed are copyright of Sumoflam Productions and David Kravetz. All rights reserved.

Fun with Twitter

Back in November I learned about Twitter for the first time. As I wrote in my blog about Black Friday, the Lexington Herald-Leader (@heraldleader) was looking for people to twitter from various sites to keep shoppers up to date. It was a fine idea, but had very few people following it. I was aware of Twitter, but considered it a passing fancy. Nonetheless, between SMS text messages among family members who were strategically shopping in different areas and the twittering, we were able to have a successful shopping experience.

As with any new application, there was a learning curve. Soon I found myself being “followed” by plenty of individuals from all over. I did not know most of these folks. In most cases and not knowing any better, I followed most of them. Soon I found my Blackberry besieged with tweets. There was spam, tech tweets, sales pitches, recipes, stories. There were even tweeps sending tweets about their hourly activities such as having dinner, on my way to work, just got to work, on the way home. It was overkill!! There were even those who would say “Good morning followers,” as if they were royalty, and would proceed with 20-30 tweets per hour!! (For more information on Twitter terminology, please see the Twitter Wiki page)
Exasperated, I dropped a number of the tweeps from posting to my blackberry. I focused on those that seemed important–Rick Sanchez from CNN (@ricksanchezcnn and @CNN), the Herald-Leader (@heraldleader), WUKY (@WUKY), ESPN (@ESPN), WKYT (@WKYT), a couple of friends (see my Twitter page (@sumoflam) for complete list). 
But many kept adding me. It was like some were in a “follow-fest competition.” Who could possibly read all these tweets. As a matter of fact, on three separate occasions I sent out “survey tweets” to see if my tweets were actually read by my 250+ followers. I asked for a response…and never got more than two.
In any case, I saw Ace Weekly (@AceWeekly) and followed them. Soon thereafter, other followers of Ace Weekly were following me. I would add them. I was finding it fun and refreshing to read the inside scoops on local politics and other issues. (photo below is of Ace Weekly editor “Ace” twittering from the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton fair on May 30)
@AceWeekly sending tweets
As I followed someone who was ecologically focused (@tomkimmerer), I noticed I would be followed by other “green” enthusiasts and even vegans. It became an interesting phenomenon.  I was soon being followed by members of my church from around the world, sports fans, travel enthusiasts. I am even following one certain president (@BarackObama)
In the midst of all these tweets, I started seeing hashmarks (#) show up. Funny, it took me nearly four months to figure out what they were used for. I would see them all the time, but was using the wrong twitter software for my blackberry to really catch on. After discovering and installing ÜberTwitter, I discovered the power of hashmarks. It was a simple #funnelcake that got me going. I soon found that adding # to words in tweets added a slew of other followers interested in the same themes.
Another thing I noticed–the tweeps mentioned above that would tweet constantly had slowed down and were sending out more informative tweets. The “royalty tweets” as I called them, began to disappear. In recent weeks I have truly learned the real strengths of twittering: following the news, getting interesting info on tech things, sharing information among an associated group of individuals and the daily uplifting thoughts that many post.
Through Twitter I have made some “virtual friends” (such as @MariAdkins,@ihenpecked and @FlauntInc) and have even met some in person. I have gotten some valuable advice. I have also been able to provide and receive minute by minute updates on things.
Another fun thing is being able to send photos directly through Twitter. With the advent of millions of camera phones that are also internet capable (think iPhones and Blackberry), Twitter allows real time updating with photos.  For example, on Memorial Day we made what I called “Chicken on the Can” with Ale8One Ginger Ale (@Ale_8_One), a local soda delight made in Winchester, KY.  I uploaded a few pictures of the process to Twitter by using TwitPic, a photo upload site for Twitter (see below).
 Naturally, as with all other communication methods, the seedy spammers are appearing in droves. The  shameless self-promoters trying to get you to buy their “how to become a millionaire through twitter”  books; the video cam folks; the “get something for nothing” promoters. Yes, as with email and    Facebook, we must be vigilant in our tweet sifting.
 Twitter is a fine tool if used correctly, and I thank those that have set a good example of how to use it  effectively and for the purpose it was created. It will be interesting to follow the continued of evolution of  tweeting in the 21st century.
 Tweet on!!

All photos and commentary expressed are copyright of Sumoflam Productions and David Kravetz. All rights reserved.

Things I Learned While Working as a Boost Call Center Agent

Today it finally happened.  My last day as a Boost Call Center agent. What a relief.  Beginning Monday I start a new chapter in life as an Apple Tech Support agent. Wow..life changes.

The last three months have been hell.  It has been bad enough being a call center agent and working in a position that I am way overqualified for.  It has been even worse having to work as a Boost Call Center agent and dealing with some of the individuals on the other side of the line.

First off, don’t get me wrong.  I am grateful to have a job, despite the hemmorhaging denegration that I have had to put up with.  Secondly, this is not a slight at Boost Mobile, which, as a subsidiary of Sprint/Nextel, should be considered a reputable company.  the whole reason for this commentary is to tell it like it is.
As we trudge on through this existence we experience many wonderful things.  We experience joyful things. We experience beautiful things.  We experience painful things. We experience devastating things.
In the last few months I experienced Boost Mobile from the inside…a whole new world….and it has not been an experience to be cherished.
Some facts: Boost Mobile is a Pre-pay phone service that operates almost all over the U.S.   Having focused originally on the Urban Hip-Hop group for their customer base, they found a group ready to jump on the bandwagon.  Why?  No credit checks, no contracts, no requirements for real names or addresses (in fact, when we set up accounts we always used the Boost address in California as a default address).  So, identity could be hidden very easily.  It has only been recently that Boost has appeared to focus on the mainstream population and their timing could not be better: A bad economy + an offer of a $50/month unlimited plan (including everything – talk, text, web, walkie talkie, long distance, roaming) was the right recipe for a BOOM.  While at Boost i heard more than once that the amount of orders for their service exceeded executive expectations by over 400%!
So, here are a few of things I have learned (or actually became cultivated and bred into me) as a Boost Call Center agent:
  • Chris Rock was right! — What do I mean by this?  in 1997 Chris Rock recorded a very controversial comedy routine on his Roll With The New album entitled “Niggas vs. Black People.”  (This will be the only time I use the “N” word in this blog and I am only using it as it is the title of the the track. Personally, I am very offended by this extremely derogatory term)  In this track Rock points out that the first group of individuals glorify ignorance and sloth, and brag about fulfilling any minor responsibility that normal people would just do. My experience with probably close to 25% of the Boost customer base on the phone was that many of these individuals would BRAZENLY attempt to leech off of the system, calling in to ask for credit on their account. Many of them were habitual.  You could see in their call records that they would call six, seven times a day asking for credit and were denied and denied over and over as credit abusers, but somehow still got the credit.  It is not at all unusual to see these folks with 6 or 7 weeks of going without adding funds to their account but continuing service by eventually finding the lazy or gullible Boost agent who would give them enough credit to last a couple of days more. This has astounded me. Even more astounding would be those (and many here as well) who we would go ahead and grant a credit of 50 cents here and a dollar there and they would swear at us and then exclaim “is that all you gonna gimme?” 
  • I am very naive! — Based on the comments above, I have had a very skewed view of a world I don’t know very well. Sure, I have known there was “an element” of indivduals out there that I should be scared of.  I have driven, by accident, through parts of Detroit that scared me to death and there are parts of Lexington that could be considered similarly dangerous for a white person.  But this certain element exists in all of the colors…the gang type of mentality…whether white, black, Hispanic, Asian or otherwise.  But my naivite (perhaps even ignorance) was shattered while taking many of the calls at Boost.  But, I had a virtual opportunity to step into their households.  These calls would come in and the first thing I would hear would be raging expletives of all types being spewed out of mouths of parties.  Sometimes they were so into the fighting and bickering, that they would not hear me saying “Thank you for calling Boost Mobile. This is David. How can I assist you?.”   I have heard mothers and fathers lashing out at each other.  It seems like many of them scream all comments at each other.  Loud was the quiet in these homes.
  • Boost lives up to its name! — I just learned three weeks ago that the urban slang term for steal (and/or shoplift) is “boost,” such as “I boosted this watch from the store.”  I don’t know how many times I would open up accounts and there would be voice on the other end saying they forgot the password to their phone account and I could I send it to them.  I would ask their name as I opened the account and they would say something like Reggie or Marquis or LaShonda or something, but I would see Jose Lopez as the name on the account.  (Got much of the same in other ethnic groups as well in the big cities like New York, Chicago, Detroit, Miami and Los Angeles to be fair).  Suffice it to say that these phones pass hands frequently, and many times not by choice of one of the parties involved.

All photos and commentary expressed are copyright of Sumoflam Productions and David Kravetz. All rights reserved.

The Storms of Life Blow On: Life as a Boost Mobile Call Center Agent

A few weeks ago I wrote about the storms of life and basically told of the hairy adventures of finding work.  Here it is about a month later now and here are some updates:

I finally began training for a position at ACS to do back-office work in a Sprint Call Center that they operate.  The training was not the best experience as there was a real lack of professionalism.  We had numerous interruptions by other trainers and, in some cases, even ad vulgar jokes told to the class when we really should have been learning the job.  I was in class of predominantly 19-24 year olds.  There were a couple of folks in their 30s and the instructor was in her 30s.  We got to hear much of her life story and had her favorite phrase “Love ya, Love your show” engrained into our minds.  But, ultimately, we finally did get out of the classroom and were able to work on real calls.  We had a lottery in the class for the departments we would go into, and I got real lucky as I would be going into an area where documentation was the work of the day.
In the midst of all this, there was a big hulabalooo as the call center had picked up a new contract doing Customer Care for Boost Mobile, a pay as you go spin off of Sprint/Nextel.  So there was a bidding war on jobs and many of the sprint folks were being herded into training for Boost.
On the last day of our Sprint Back Office training, the Asst. General Manager of the call center came in and told us that we too would be moving to Boost and would have another week of training, this time with a different trainer.
I did want to mention the training corps…a real band of gypsies…our first trainer was a former collections specialist and was really into letting us know her life story.  Then, the others included a self proclaimed Wickan who also is into dressing and performing as a drag queen (indeed, he told this when he introduced himself to the class), an American gal that has turned Islam and wears the head-covering and all (but is also loud, obnoxious and tells vulgar jokes in class–at least to ours), another gal who I didn’t get to know very well but was also loud (twice she came to our classroom, opened the door and screamed…just to scare us).  Finally, there was the older lady, who had been short and had hip problems so was on crutches.  Quite a lively bunch.
Anyway, back to the classes.  We were moved to Boost training the next Monday and our trainer had also changed.  We now had the sweet little lady on crutches.  She called herself an old lady, but actually I am a tad older than she is.  SHe also had a much more focused and professional demeanor than our other trainer and did not put up with the child-play antics of some of the students in the class.  On top of that, we had a week to get through a basically three-week training course and shse did the job.  By the end of the first week of March we were taking live Boost Mobile calls.
BOOST MOBILE: WHAT IS IT?

Boost Mobile is a pre-pay phone service, much like Cricket.  They have recently made a major putsch into the national market with some really catchy yet downright ridiculous commercials.  here are a couple of them:
All of these commercials, featuring the “Un-wronged” Theme, are there to focus on the new $50 Unlimited Plan which offers customers unlimited everything without hidden fees or contracts; Unlimited Walkie talkie, Cell Service, Long Distance, Texting, Web Access, Roaming, etc.  Actually quite a good deal.  Pay the fifty bucks and you got all this stuff for 30 days.
Prior to this they did have more of an “Urban Theme” in their commercials
With commericals like these one can imagine that a great deal of the customer base would be urban.  And indeed it is….
LIFE AS A CALL CENTER AGENT

As we entered the Boost world, we were told immediately that there would be unlimited overtime for Boost agents as there was such a greeat need.  ACS was excited about the new venture and hoped to pick up a long term contract with Boost as a Customer Care Call Center.  Once on the floor and able to do it, I too tackled the unlimited overtime as the income was definitely needed.  The last three weeks I have worked between 60 and 62 hours per week.  Every morning in at 9 AM and working until 11 PM with just a couple of breaks and an hour lunch in the evening.
Main gist of the job?  A call comes in and I say “Thank you for calling Boost Mobile. This is David. How can I help you?”  From there who knows where the road might lead you.  There are all types of folks using Boost, but most definitely some real urban centers…the African-American neighborhoods of New York and Chicago are biggies.  The Cuban/Hispanic population in Miami.  Jamaicans in New York.  Truck drivers from the south. All kinds of accents and attitudes.  Many of the folks are decent, but there really is an “urban” angle to many of the subscribers. 
I work with a headset/mic combination with a Voice-Over-IP system.  My headset does have volume control, but between the ariance of cellular ervice and the variance of VOIP network stability, sometimes the calls come in blaring lourd with hip-hop music and gang talk on the other end while I try to get my “Thank You for Calling Boost Mobile”.  I would say that nearly 25% of the calls are expletive laced and many are without courtesy.  There is also an element out there that tries to squeeze every little “courtesy credit’ out of us with every excuse in the book.  It is amazing how much griping some folks do over $1.00 and losing phone service over it.
Obviously, 12 hours a day of this kind of barraging is not fun for the soul.  Don’t get me wrong, there are indeed a number of decent folks out there.  But, after taking nearly 1800 calls the last three weeks, I can also tell who the crooks are.  At least once an hour I ge a call from a customer that has “lost their phone” or their phone “was stolen”.  Then, we get the folks who call in to change their numbers every other week.  I have heard boyfriend/girlfriend fights over the phone and divorces, etc.  One lady called in and said her husband’s phone needed to be suspended.  It was smashed in the street.  She also asked to have her number and passcode changed.  She had obviously been the one to smash his phone.  She was angry…
Despite my travels all over the country,I have never had the opportunity to get such a diverse cultural experience.  In just a short three weeks I have learned a great deal about inner-city life just by listening to the background conversations.  I have learned of the guys running corner stores that sell Boost Cards (for adding funds to the phone) and then once the customer buys the cards and gets home, they find out that the cards are no good.  There are indeed a number of unscrupulous dealers out there.
Many folks are always changing SIM cards and not calling us. They complain of bad service, but are actually the result because our system doensn’t recognize their SIM cards.  
In any case, I can see that Boost Mobile is making a concerted effort to expand out away from the urban hip-hop environment into main stream America.  More and more I am hearing housewives and businessmen calling in.  Many older retired folks are getting in on the deals.  Ultimately, I think it is a good thing, but, once again, this has been an interesting experience indeed.
WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE?

I must be honest.  I do not enjoy this job nor the hours.  But, as is my philosophy, I am working my best to do my best at the job I have.  I am excelling and doing well.  But, I really wonder if it is worth all the effort.  Last Friday we were all called into a meeting and were informed that Bosst Mobile would end their contract with ACS at the end of May.  Boost will be opening a 600 seat call center off-shore somewhere (never were told, but I assume it is in either the Philippines or India – will they ever have fun understanding ghetto-ized English or deep south drawls!!!)
So, once again I am looking at an uncertain future.  I must keepe up the pace so as to be at the top of the pack in the call center.  Job retention will be performance based, not seniority based.  It is a scary thought that on May 31 I could be out of work (and also out of insurance – my COBRA expires on May 31 as well).  I had looked forward to a $500/moth raise just due to the reduction of insurance costs as I would be eligible for ACS benefits on June 1.
Only time will tell…….

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