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Sunday, July 25, 2010


Religion is an important part of many people’s lives. I could carry on with some diatribe about the evils of religion, but you’ve heard all that before. I’d rather talk about the essence of all religion. At the heart of any serious religion is:
  1. Truth
  2. Justice
  3. Peace
  4. Love
  5. Tradition
I would contend that it is that fifth element that causes most of the ruckus. If you strip that off, you’ve got a nice looking package. If someone came to my door offering to sell me a world where everyone was honest, moral and wanted peace and justice for his or her Earthly cohabitants; I’d spend everything I had to get it. But, alas, that ain’t gonna happen anytime too soon. On the other hand…you never know…stranger things have happened. Why, just tonight I saw what I would estimate to be 80 mph winds – blowing the rain so hard that it seemed to atomize it at one point.

That wind reminded me why religion exists in the first place. We all feel in our hearts, there is something greater. For most of human existence, the “something greater” was unknowable. However, as mankind evolves, we grow ever closer to unlocking all the secrets of our multiverse (thanks Michio). Enlightened spiritual paths have encouraged the interconnection of science and “spiritual” belief. For, if spirituality is a name we give to the great unknown, then it only stands to reason that the more we know, the less there will be to “believe in.”

This does not mean that we will eventually eliminate spirituality because we have inherited the capabilities or humankind’s early representations of “god.” Oops! There it is. It took me three paragraphs and a list to get to…it…er…him…er…. Nobody ever accused me of being too succinct (except maybe my poor wife when she catches me in a grumpy mood). Yes, this blog is ultimately about god. Since god is god so god does not have an appropriate pronoun for god, then god will just have to be god all the time, rather than wrestling with inappropriate pronouns. Fortunately, I am going to stop saying god over and over again and start blathering on about what the underlying essence of the universal meaning of god.

Just as we broke down the base components of all religions (with the possible exception of #5), we should be able to breakdown the components of god. Hmmm! Tricky. Well, I can only think of two that strike me as somewhat universal (at least widespread): Immortality and omnipotence. Now, these are two ideas that lend themselves very nicely to science.

Immortality is simply the mastery of time. Once a civilization achieves this level, growing old and being terminated by an event in a single point in the endless streams of time becomes a thing of the past. Krishnamurti knew that there was a core of reality that he called “ground” because there is nothing lower level. It is in…er…at…dang! There’s a preposition problem now. I guess it’s an occupational hazard when you talk about fundamental shit (now there’s a good universal pronoun). But, I continue to digress… Ground is where everything comes together – that which connects everything in the multiverse. We’re talking the convergence point of all space and time and any other shit we don’t know anything about yet, but will find out about later.

Omnipotence is all about power and energy. Michio Kaku talks about the multiverse in his book, Hyperspace. He also discusses the significance of using individual power consumption as a consistent measure of the technological evolution of an intelligent species from anywhere in the multiverse. The underlying principle is that as a species evolves, its per capita consumption of energy increases dramatically. Even in our own time, if you compared the average daily individual power consumption of a wealthy person with that of a poor person in a poverty stricken area of the world, the difference would be dramatic (Google it – you’ll see I’m right). Imagine the power we will wield in 1000 years. How about 10000 years? It’s easy to presume that, as our understanding of the way everything works expands, so will our ability to harness ever expanding power sources. Today, we can tap small sources of energy or we tap a small percentage of large energy sources. If we don’t kill ourselves (or get blown off the planet by some geothermal cataclysm), we will someday be able to harness 100% of the energy from a whole star – individually! Now THAT’S some juice!

If you could harness that much power, you’d be able to reassert matter and energy to form any combination of…uh…stuff you wanted. And, if you lived on the ground, you would harness 100% of the power of the multiverse. You’d be god. By then, you’d know it, too. Science and spirituality converge! We’ll probably fuck it all up somewhere along the way. Oh, well – maybe I should just keep the faith.

Saturday, July 03, 2010


In a small enterprise, the leader can hand select each employee.  If she is a good judge of character, she will select wisely and the enterprise will prosper.    Being prosperous seems like a good thing, but like most good things, it comes at a price.  The price is loss of control.  Prosperity brings growth.  As any of my readers know, I am aware of the Small Giants phenomenon, but most enterprises choose to grow to whatever degree their prosperity will take them.

As long as the right people are selecting the right people, the only thing that prevents the organization from taking care of customers is lack of empowerment.  This leads me to a story of a complete breakdown of both, brought to you by our friends at DirectTV.

To start with, I’ve been a loyal DirecTV customer for many years.  Since I live out in the boonies, I don’t have much choice in the matter.  When it first started out, DirecTV was rough around the edges.  However, I noticed a significant improvement in performance over the years.  The frontline people seemed to have enough empowerment to satisfy a range of situations.

Behind the scenes, the management of the firm has decided to play a nasty little game with their value conscious clientele.  Here’s how it works:
  1. Customer calls disconnect group and says he’s quiting
  2. Customer service rep asks “will you stay if we give you $10 off?”
  3. “No.” says the customer.
  4. “How about $20/month?"
  5. “Throw in six months of Showtime and Skinimax and you got a deal."
  6. “Done,” says the rep.
Then, six months slip quietly by with only a $2.35/month rate hike.  BAM! The bill jumps up $20 per month.  So,  this process repeats until someone, in this case – me, gets fed up with the game and just wants the price drop “forever.”

Now, you have some grasp of my state of mind when I began my fateful call.  Oh, one more thing:  It seems that DirecTV really appreciated my patronage, because they not only sent me a postcard offering me a free movie, but they also posted the offer on their website.  The postcard apparently had some mysterious instructions on it, but frankly, when I saw the offer online, I threw the postcard out.  The instructions (condense to the essentials) were as follows:
  1. Select a movie from the designated channels
  2. Watch the movie
  3. Your account will automatically be credited
This seemed pretty straightforward to me, so I watched Invictus (pretty good movie).  Now, it just so happens, this all happened in the same month after the last six months had expired.  So, when I found the charge for the movie on the bill with the post-special deal rates bringing the damages to just under $90 (with no Internet service), I was ticked to say the least.

I start out going through the regular drill.  My objective is to bring my bill back down into the low $50’s.  We were just coming up to step #5, “Jane” offers me a different package that will get my rate where I want it.  

“I’m on the site now, tell me where I can see the channels,” I ask.

“It’s not on the site.  It is a special package for [customers who bitch up a storm],” I paraphrased Jane.

“How can I see what channels this package has,” I asked?

“What channels are you looking for,” she asked?



“Comedy Central?”

“I want to cancel,” I proclaimed.

“You have a two year contract, so you will need to pay a prorated termination fee for the time between now and Nov. 1st.”

“Alright, I’ll take the crappy package! But, you need to take the $5.99 charge off my bill for the “free” movie you offered me.

“How did you hear about the movie?  Did you get a postcard, Jane asked?


“Did you follow the instructions on the card?”

“I used the instructions from offer on your website, which I am looking at right now.  Let me read it to you.  It says watch the movie and you’ll AUTOMATICALLY credit my bill.  Where’s the credit?”

“Yeah, but if you got the postcard, you gotta follow those instructions.”

“Are you authorized to give me a credit?”

“No,” responded Jane.

“I want to speak with your supervisor”

“Sir, you cannot…”

“I’m not talking to you anymore.  Get me your supervisor.”

“I will need to put you on hold for 3-5 minutes.”

“Fine,” I said.  I said it again five minutes later and again five minutes after that.  At the end of the third five minutes, I’d had enough.

“The supervisor is still busy, do you want to wait some more?”

“What if I don’t?”

“You can call back later.  We’re real busy right now.”

“How is that my problem?  You should have enough people to staff your peak periods effectively.”  I don’t think she grasped this aspect call center design.  “Fine, just do what you’ve got to do.”  After I hung up, I immediately called my bank and restricted their access to my bank account, which they had been tapping monthly for many years.

So, this thing is not over, but they will need to call me to settle up.  My guess is, they will turn it over to a collection agency eventually.  They will call and threaten to report me to the credit bureau, but not before I make them leave several messages.  Only then will I negotiate a substantially reduced settlement, which I will have the satisfaction of knowing also cost DirecTV the cost of the collection agency’s fee as well.

If I were consulting with DirecTV, I would charge them $250 per hour to tell them how to avoid this situation.  As a customer, I offered it up for free, but alas, there’s nobody listening.  Well, if DirecTV loses customers one at a time, it will be awhile before they start faltering.  Online options continue to expand.  DirecTV’s failure in both the personnel and empowerment categories will continue to haunt it.  I will be haunting them for a little while longer.