RevKev thinks...

Feb 01

Post away!

At least 3 times this week I’ve bumped into a friend and started a conversation as if we’d been talking every day. We talked about the special dinner they cooked the night before or the kid’s recital… you know, personal, intimate stuff that only friends and family would pay attention to or care about. Only later I realized that we hadn’t actually been together in months. We just follow each other on Facebook.

There’s probably a lot of things wrong with this but I’m cool with it. So let me say it openly to my friends. I WANT to look at photos of your dinner. I LOVE hearing about your cat. I’m thrilled watching the progress of your kitchen remodel. I want to wish you a happy birthday. I welcome the stories and pictures you find interesting.  Let’s debate on your page and battle it out in Words with Friends. It’s okay because in a bit I’m going to need you to help me build my village. I will watch the video of your big head kid doing something cute. I want to cheer when that great thing happens and cry with you when it’s really messed up.

I recognize the security concerns and how easy it is to stalk someone these days. I strongly support controls for how our info is used and who has access. And I’m never going to fully trust whoever holds the keys to the pipes we need to communicate like this. Those are all very real and many of the criticisms are legit.

At the same time I feel closer now to more people than I ever have in my life. Relationships become less temporary. Social media has made that possible. We can stay connected for as long as we choose. Now I don’t have to miss you so much because you aren’t really gone. I can see you online.

So post away, my friends. Give me every detail you want to share. I want to know. That’s why you’re my friend. ;)

(did I just do a commercial for FB?)

Nov 21

Grove Academy -

Check it out. Time to start changing New Haven.

May 31

trash pickup - Hill, New Haven, CT, New Haven - Issue #189913 - SeeClickFix -

I rarely take the time to look at these SeeClickFix reports anymore. I am just thrilled by the number of emails I get from reports in my watch area. That means that people are using it. I’m particularly pleased when the report comes from a neighborhood that most would consider “the hood.” You know what I mean… those parts of the city that you just don’t expect to be connected. Neighborhoods, or parts of neighborhoods, that suffer with poverty and crime. Most of us who don’t live in one of those neighborhoods tend to think that the people who do just don’t care. The slow proliferation of SeeClickFix in those communities is proving that they do care.

But that’s not what I wanted to write about here. My first reaction to this report is that I bet the problem is the folks who reported this are throwing in the trash too many things that should be recycled. And the more I thought about it I began to realize that I’m probably just as guilty. The problem is I don’t know what items can be recycled. Sure I know the easy things like cans and newspapers. But what about the packaging from my frozen dinner? My used Kleenex? Or my mail? There are probably THOUSANDS of things I throw in the trash that could be recycled. I just don’t know.

If we’re really going to take this recycling kick serious - whether it be to save the planet or to save money - then we need to put some more effort into teaching folks how to do it. This is a new muscle you’re asking us to use so we’re going to need to train it.

We need a team of folks doing traveling road shows. Hit the schools, the libraries, the churches and places of worship/reflection, the parks, the management teams, the senior homes, ANY place where people gather. Plop down a tarp… empty out a trash bag full of what people normally throw out… and show us what else should be recycled. (You could even show us how to compost too, if you want. Maybe create neighborhood collection spots.)

Go into the stores and put stickers on products with instructions for recycling after use. That way folks can see it up front when they buy the product. Might remember when they finish with it.

And keep talking about it. Keep the buzz going. Have contests. Set objectives. Whatever it takes to get folks excited. After a few years folks will get it and you can move on to the next thing that saves money and/or the planet.

I don’t know… worth a shot. What do you think?

Apr 07

Kickstarter - Inside Out #NHV

Jul 15

Best Buy gets a star. (not gold. not even bronze but a star.)

If you’ve been following my laptop saga you will recall that on May 12, 2011 I took my Sony Vaio notebook back to Best Buy in North Haven to have it repaired because of a broken power button.  I’m not going to go into the details of that. You can follow my Tweets for background (@kewingct.) I want to tell you what happened today.

Today marked the 65th day since I took my laptop in. I’d been tweeting and emailing trying to get them to do something since about day 45 but the last few days I’ve picked it up and started mentioning everybody I found with Best Buy, Geek Squad or Sony in their handle on Twitter.  

Yesterday I got an email from Best Buy saying they were looking into it but the problem was with Sony. This morning I got a call from Sony to “explain why they can’t fix my laptop.”  They left a voicemail with the direct number to Sony’s Top Level Customer Service department.  I called him back. He spoke English as a first language. That right there told me I had gotten somewhere. (Not being xenophobic. Just sayin’… sometimes you can’t understand them Indian dudes.  To be fair, I sometimes can’t understand Southern country twangs and although I understand them, the Boston joint is just annoying. ‘Paak da Caaar’) lol.

Anyway the dude I got apologized and said, “Let me check your file and we’ll get that fixed up right away.”  I breathed a deep breath and thought, “FINALLY!!!”  Of what a fool I was…

Dude came back to give me the reason for the delay.  The reason he gave was because “we don’t have it anymore. We sent it back to Best Buy and since they don’t have it we can’t fix it because it’s not here. So when you get it back from BB send it back to us… on our postage dime… and then we can fix it… in 2 to 3 weeks… and we’re waiving the charge for the repair even though it was user caused damage and not our fault.”  

I dropped the phone!!!

I said, “First off… that’s some bull!!!  I mean it took you 65 days to figure that out?!!! Why the heck didn’t you just fix it when you had it instead of sending it back to Best Buy!!!”  

He said they sent it back because BB refused payment for the repair.  

I said “Okay first off… (for some reason I start putting my issues in numerical order when I get pissed. I think it’s because keeping track of the order keeps me from slapping the crap out of whoever pissed me off.)  I said, “Okay first off… you just said that Sony was covering the cost so there should have been no cost for Best Buy to refuse to pay!  Secondly, that’s not what Best Buy told me. They said it was all your mess up!”  He said, “Well I can’t be responsible for what BB says…” I cut him off, “IT DOESN’T MATTER. YOU 2 CAN FIGHT IT OUT AMONGST YOURSELVES! IN THE MEAN TIME YOU ARE SCREWING OVER A CUSTOMER WHO JUST WANTS TO BE ABLE TO DO HIS WORK! NOW WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO FIX MY FRIGGIN’ (I actually said ‘friggin’”) LAPTOP?!!!”

Anyway, we went back and forth like this several times and I never got him to acknowledge that this has been going on since May 12 and that Sony has done anything wrong.  He kept insisting that it was Best Buy’s fault for the delay since they declined the payment and threw it out of Sony’s repair tracking system.  So I said, “Let me get you both on the phone together.”  I called BB and got disconnected. Then lost the Sony call too.

My pressure must be good because at this point I’m steaming so hot that if I had hypertension I would have passed out by now.  I tried calling Best Buy and was kept on hold for about 20 minutes before the operator came on the line and asked for my number so they could call me back.  I wasn’t prepared to wait for them to get around to that.

So I got in my car and drove to North Haven BB intending to call Sony from there and get this straight!  Before I left The Grove I told a couple folks the latest and that where I was headed. I said I would be back after I made bail… should it come to that. (Made sure I had Porky’s number on my phone before I left.)

I get to BB and there is a North Haven PD car parked in front.  I head to the Geek Squad counter and the uniformed cop is standing there. (His daughter’s cat chewed through the Wii cable.)  I’m thinking, “Lord Jesus don’t let them say something stupid and make me slap them in front of this cop. My birthday party is Sunday.

The first dude came to wait on me.  I asked if he was in charge. He said no so I said get me the dude that’s in charge. He went in back and came out with geek in the white shirt.  I handed him my repair ticket without saying a word. I was afraid of what would come out but I know he could feel the tension (or at least see the steam spewing from my ears.)  He looked at the paper and said, “Oh… it’s you. I’ll be right back!” Then scurried behind the curtain.  The first dude stood there looking unsure of himself then scurried behind the curtain with them.

I stood there mumbling to myself and noticed the cop looking at me. I stared him down. (okay actually the dude waiting on him came back and distracted him.)

A few minutes later the geeks came back with a folder and started showing me emails where Best Buy was trying to get Sony to fix the machine and return it to me. The problem was the emails didn’t start until 7/8.

When I pointed that out Geek Squad supervisor dude started with the “nothing I can do… it’s Sony” story and that’s when I started to loose it. I said, “I don’t want to hear that apology crap because it is fake. If you were really sorry you would see to it that I don’t spend another day unable to do my work without a working laptop!!!”

I had with me a small notebook where I had written all the tracking/service numbers and phone numbers on this case.  I told the dude, “I’ve not been able to get any work done for 65 days!  Two weeks ago I met with a potential new client to discuss his social media campaign and I had this [holding up the notebook] is what I had for a notebook.  I couldn’t even show him examples.  You think I got that contract?!!!”  They both shook their heads, no.

"Hell naw I didn’t get it!  You know why?  Because you are sorry. Fix my dang laptop and you got nothing to be sorry about!!!  But no… you care more about your systems than you do your customer’s satisfaction. So you tell me… are you sorry enough to compensate me for my lost productivity these last 65 days?!!"

He started back with the, “But it’s Sony who…”  I said, “I bought my laptop at Best Buy! I purchased the extended warranty at Best Buy! I brought it in for repair to Best Buy!!!  It’s a machine made by Sony exclusively for Best Buy!!! It will be Best Buy that shoot down in every tweet, every facebook post, every google+ stream and every chance I get to say it!!! It will be Best Buy that I report to the Better Business Bureau, the AG’s office, the Federal Consumer watchdogs and everybody else I can find!!! I got time to do it because I ain’t getting on work since my laptop is sitting here in your SORRY STORE!!!  Now what besides being sorry are you going to do about protecting your sorry reputation?!!!”

Dude said, “I understand your frustration but there’s nothing I can do.”

"Nothing you can do!" I said.  "Then who CAN do something?!"

He said, “I can go get the store manager. She might be able to help but I doubt it since it’s Sony…”

"Just go get the manager. And tell her to be quick about it too. My feet hurt. What’s here name?"

"Carla"

"Well tell Carla that if she ain’t here quick I’m gonna hop up here on this counter and rest my feet til she do."

The cop was at the counter listening this entire exchange. After supervisor geek left I looked at the cop like, “What!!!”  His rep came back and gave him his new Wii antenna and change and he started to leave.  He was mugging me the entire way. As he passed me he said, “65 days huh.”  I said, “Yep.”  He shook his head and said, “Get ‘em. Good luck.”  Then he winked and left. Supervisor geek saw the whole thing and visibly gulped, his buzzard looking Adam’s apple bobbing away.

That’s when the manager walked up. SG took her back behind the curtain to apprise her of the situation before she confronted me and my wrath.  They stayed back there for about 3 minutes while I rummaged through my file he’d left on the counter.  Best Buy was clearly trying. Sony was stonewalling.

The manager walked out and passed me without saying a word. Super-geek came out with another file and said, “I’ve got some good news for you Mr. Ewing. Because you had the extended warranty with us and since Sony is refusing to make the repair, and since your manufacturers warranty is technically up now [I started to interrupt] I know, it wasn’t expired when you brought it in.  Just hear me out on this. I think you’ll be okay.  

So here’s what we’ll do… we’ll go ahead and replace the laptop and give you a new computer. But if we do that, under the terms of your extended warranty, you will have used it up. You’ll have to purchase a new warranty for the new machine. Is that okay?”

I was like, “Look dude… I just want to get back to work. What you got for me?”

We went out on the floor to look at the stock. “Do you want another Sony?”

I said, “Dude, if Sony were the only company to manufacture the device I need to stay alive… I would probably just go ahead and die!  And don’t try to sell me no Dell either!!!”

10 minutes later I walked out of there with my new machine that’s bigger, faster and more powerful than the Sony. I’m setting it up even as we speak (or as I type.)  So by Monday I’ll be back fully back online.

Not long ago I got an email from one of the Best Buy people I mentioned in my Tweets affirming that the local store took care of me and offering a $75 gift certificate.  I haven’t responded yet but think I’ll write back and say, “Thanks but Best Buy doesn’t have anything I need for only $75. I know your intent isn’t really about compensating me but rather it’s to get me back in the store spending again. But I’ve been out of work for the last 65 days waiting on one of you to step up and take responsibility so I don’t have anything to add with it. It would take at least $[need a number] to get me back in a Best Buy spending money… when and if I can start getting some new clients!”

So Best Buy has somewhat redeemed themselves.  I’m willing to give them another shot one of these days.  Sony on the other hand…  well… let’s just hope they don’t start manufacturing pace makers and let’s hope I never need one.

May 25

WE are the solution -

I am glad to see this increased police presence.  I am also afraid to see this increased police presence. Mostly I’m saddened to see this increased police presence is needed.

I’m glad because I recognize that some of these dudes are too far gone to see other options and to take advantage of the opportunities that are available.  There’s a lot of hurt in dudes out there right now and for their own reasons they just aren’t going to listen. Maybe prison is the slap in the face they need to awaken them from their stupor and make them take some personal responsibility for their choices. Perhaps next them they’ll make better ones.

I’m afraid because the heavy hand of the law will also capture up some dudes that are on the fence.  I’m afraid it might force them the wrong way. It will give them an excuse to give up… loose hope.

I’m also afraid that there will be a few officers who, in their heightened level of alert or unhealthy sense of power, will go a little too far in subduing a resident and further destroy the relationship between the police and many of the rest of us. 

I’m afraid of giving the police that much power. I know most cops are great. I really know how dangerous the job is and how tense it can get sometimes.  And I know better than most how easy it is to loose control.  So not only am I afraid for us citizens but I’m more afraid of what it will do to the men and women on the force.

There was one thing that the mayor left out.  It actually should be a 5 point plan.  He left out the community and what we can do to stop this foolishness!!!  He left out what I can do.

So let me tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to gather as many of my young brothers and sisters around me as I can and I’m going to teach them what I know. I’m going to keep looking for opportunities for them and encourage them to take advantage.  I’m going to be willing to put foot to behind when they mess up and then help them fix it. I’m going to stay on that behind to make sure they don’t do it again. 

I’m going to find people who think like me and are willing to give what they got to this cause too.  I’m going to do everything in my power to make the job of a police officer on the NHPD the most boring job on the planet.

I live here.  I love it here.  I pay taxes (and parking tickets) here.  I’ve chosen this city to be my home. So Mr. Mayor, please don’t ever leave us out of this or any other plans you might be making for this city.  Some of us - MANY of us - are ready to do our part. In fact, we already are working. WE are the solution to what ails this city. It would be so much easier if we worked together.

So New Haven… I’m calling you out. Y’all ready to shut this mess down?  Together we can do it.

Mar 03

We need to talk…

We need to talk. Not about what we’re losing.  We need to talk about how we’re going to do what needs to get done.  And we ALL have a role to play.

For the last few weeks the local news has been filled with fights between the police and the police administration… the police and the mayor… the police and the residents… the mayor and the workers and even the workers and the residents.  Nothing but fights!!  It’s us against them and even though most of the time we aren’t sure who is us and who is them, we know that they are pure EVIL!!!

What’s happening to my city?  The relationship between the police, city hall and the public is probably at one of its all time worst. (There’s probably a study out there confirming that statement but I don’t have time to look for it.)  No one trusts anyone anymore and we’re headed towards something… well… I don’t want to think about where we’re heading with this. If we keep yelling at each other like this… if we keep at each others throats no one wins.  We’re all screaming at each other and nothing is getting done!

I’ve found myself caught up in it.  I’ve said some things… I’ve done some things… I’ve been a part of some things that really did nothing to fix anything.  I got to scream.  Maybe I needed to scream.  But I’m done.  My throat is sore. Breathing is becoming difficult in our polluted air.  I’m going to save my screaming for when I’m really getting hurt or being ignored or see you stepping on somebody.

We are clearly at a fork in the road. There is no way we can continue down the path we’ve been traveling the last few years.  It’s time for change. We now have the chance to reinvent ourselves. 

But we’re going to miss out if we don’t sit down and talk to each other… not about what we are about to lose.  Let’s sit down and talk about how we’re going to get the work done.  There is a role for ALL of us and to be successful we’re going to need all of us pulling together.

Am I expecting us to just hug and all get along? That would be real cool but I’m not that naive.  Ain’t gonna be no Kum-ba-ya moments anytime soon. (Actually, I bet some UCC and UU folks will do some hugging sessions but that ain’t what I’m taking about.) We got some serious stuff to decide and about some of it we’re just going to need to fight it out.  That’s REAL TALK! 

But 2 things about this fight…

  1. We need to make sure we got the right folks fighting for us.  We got to make sure that they are saying what we would say if we were asked to speak.  If not, we need to change who does the talking.  Or better yet, speak for yourself!
  2. We need to remember that when this is all said and done we’re going to need our opponent.  In other words while we may be fighting today I ain’t trying to destroy you because tomorrow I’m going to need you. No matter how mad we get with each other we’re still in this together.  If we remember that we can temper the tone of our fighting and we have a better chance at reaching synthesis.

And when we get tired of fighting let’s sit down and figure this out.  See I believe that we have enough for everybody to get everything they need.  And if you work for it you really can get much of what you want.

We need to talk. Not about what we’re losing.  We need to talk about how we’re going to do what needs to get done.  And we ALL have a role to play.  I want you to be able to take care of your family.  I want you to be able to provide nice things for them.  I want the same thing. I bet if we work together at it we’ll both be able to take care of our families much better than if we could by ourselves.

We need to talk… knowamsayin’?

Jan 18

Group Aims to Give Mother's a Second Helping -

Community doesn’t just happen.  It doesn’t matter how extravagant the facilities, how educated and wealthy the residents, how well funded the programs or how established the management structures  (or the inverse of any of these)… community doesn’t just happen.  Not real community.  To get real community you have to work at it.  You have to MAKE it happen.  And it is VERY hard work.  So hard that I admit I often question my decision to publicly declare myself a ‘Community Organizer.’ 

But then it starts to work.  Things start coming together.  I start to hear the concepts I teach making their way into the conversation.  Concepts like the power of relationships; the importance of people; the value of place. Concepts like the power of collaboration - working together towards a cause.  But most of all the power of a Relational Community.  And my faith is restored.  They are more then concepts.  They work.

I bring this up in relation to this article because I believe it illustrates two points that are evidence of a community that is beginning to think relationally… a community that is starting to embrace a relational culture.

Mother’s Kitchen sits in the area of the West River neighborhood that we are trying to call the West River Business Triangle District.  But most folks know of it as The Bottoms.  It is currently the only section of this small neighborhood zoned for retail and commercial businesses along with moderate density residential.  In other words, it is supposed to be a neighborhood business district.  You can easily walk to it from anywhere in the neighborhood.  It should be a vibrant place of commerce and social activity.  But what we got instead is… The Bottoms.

Of the roughly 20 commercial enterprises in this area, Mother is the only one that actually lives in the neighborhood. This is not to imply that only businesses run by people who live in a neighborhood actually care about the neighborhood.  That is way too much of a generalization.  However in the Bottoms… it happens to be true. 

Mother’s is a refuge and Mother is a jewel.  Countless times I’ve been in Mother’s and watched her generosity. 

Mother knows how to cook and how to hustle. For years she was able to work hard enough to keep up. When she got behind she just worked a little harder. She doesn’t know marketing. She doesn’t know bookkeeping. She knows how to cook and how to hustle.

Then she found she couldn’t hustle like she used to. Maybe she could put in the work but the reward just wasn’t there.  Compound that with a few scoundrels who took advantage of a warm-hearted, gentle and perhaps a bit naive woman and we end up with this mess.  Precision Services LLC is a predatory lender (though they will claim that they are providing financing to people who wouldn’t be able to get financing any other way (isn’t that what the mafia claims)) and frankly I am afraid of them taking over such an important piece of property.

Mother’s is in need of more than just money.  She needs a complete restructuring. Hopefully we can put something together that will let her just cook and be Mother in all her fabulous-ness.

So though I love Mother and don’t know what I’m gonna do if I loose her Brown Stew Chicken with rice and peas and cabbage, I’m more concerned about what will happen if we loose that block to another ‘entrepreneur’ only interested in exploiting our community and keeping that block living down to its nickname - The Bottoms.

When we got the word that Mother was in trouble the neighborhood rallied.  But we didn’t know what we could do.  And here is where we see the first principle I want to lift up. A community is vibrant when the people take action.

We don’t know how this will turn out.  Mother may be in too much financial distress for us to be able to put together a package that makes sense (after all, this is about business.)  However we are willing to try.  Nothing ventured… nothing gained.  You have not because you ask not.  However you want to put it, nothing happens until you act.

The group of folks who are coming together around resolving this issue is impressive.  Not only do we have residents (both West River Neighborhood Services Corporation and the West River SHIP are predominately resident driven organizations - the later for profit and the former a 501c3) but we also have the City of New Haven Economic Development Administration, Yale Law Clinic, the Community Economic Development Fund, and various others working together.  And all it took was a few phone calls to bring this team together.

The significance here is that this team is the “community”.  In this usage “community” is relational.  Everyone who lives, works, plays or cares about this neighborhood is a part of our community.  There is no need to bicker.  There is no need to get territorial (as often happens when a group such as this comes together.)  It doesn’t matter your race, level of education, income, employment status… it doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that you care and are ready to act on your convictions.

My second point - more a refinement of the first point: It’s not just about acting. It’s about acting together.

As I stated earlier, we don’t know if we will be able to save Mother’s Kitchen.  We hope to be able to at least have the community take control of this anchor space in our neighborhood.  We don’t know.  It is the first time that we’ve come together around something this huge.  Regardless the outcome, however, we have proven the value of a relational culture.  It is the years of establishing a healthy public relationship with the people in our “community” that made it possible for us to respond as quickly as we have.

So in a sense we have won before we even begin the battle. We may not know exactly what we can do or how we can do it.  What we do know is that we can do SOMETHING!!!  We can act.  And we can act with confidence because we are acting TOGETHER!!!

In one of our Neighborhood of Choice meetings last year I presented again the concept of building community relationally and one of West River’s new leaders - Ann Greene said, “It’s just like making Stone Soup.”  The metaphor is perfect.  I plan to write more about this later but basically the concept is that each person in our community brings with them the ingredients that make up this soup.  We each have a role in the building of our community and that construction only happens, or happens successfully, when we put it all together in the same pot. It’s relational.

The coalition of folks working to save Mother’s… to save West River… to save New Haven is like Stone Soup.  We stir it together, give it a taste and if something is missing we go out and get it.

The West River neighborhood is quickly becoming a Relational Community.

Nov 08

Surge in crimes hitting Old Saybrook; Economy, police station relocation seen as possible causes for increase- The New Haven Register - Serving New Haven, Connecticut -

Smh. I’ll just say this.  I am concerned when our immediate response is to build up the Police Forces. That scares me. Because the job of the Police Force is to put stick to the head of evil doers - figuratively and all too often literally. The problem is it’s hard to tell an evil doer from the rest of us. And that’s assuming the ‘rest of us’ are not the occasional ‘evil doer’. (Lord knows I can’t cast any stones.)

I am not naive. I live in ‘the hood.’ I see what is happening and I want the police to help us stop it. The ‘rest of us’ need to start paying a little more attention to what is causing this. We thought we had buffers set up. We thought we had systems in place. But it looks like they are failing.

We need to start thinking bigger than ourselves. And we need to start looking at it together. Cities and towns. We’re having the same problems. Let’s talk… We can figure this out if we work together on it.

Nov 04

Drum time.

Drum time.