2012-01-24

Лучше меньше, да лучше

It's a good time to be me and have my job.

Earlier today, I had a good conversation with my boss, and he liked my ideas, and said he would fund them within reason. I can't share them publicly just yet, because a lot of it is still in the exploration stage and may shape up to be very different from what I think now. But if it all goes well, I may well do something truly cool in the area of corporate communities of use.

In (un)related news I had an interesting moment today where I told a coworker that I may walk away from supporting their event, because I felt that the result was going to be decidedly "not awesome."

While I can upload the videos, we may want to seriously revise the social media plan for this event. Contrary to my suggestions, nothing has happened on the blog and Facebook front. Having me there without the org and marketing buy-in really may not bring the results we hope for. If we don't build up going into [eventX], the effect of all the social media activity in the world will be diminished if all we do is shout our messages out from there, and promptly fall asleep again. Social media engagement is a commitment, and if the org is not ready, I agree, my participation may not be necessary.

This actually felt very good. I think I will do more of that. Walk away from not awesome, focus on fewer awesome things.

Sadly, I am afraid my message did not make my coworker feel as empowered as it did me, because it's been several hours, and there still was no response, where it usually takes 30 seconds.

2012-01-16

So you think you're safer with that 4-point?

It's not the speed that kills you, it's the sudden deceleration that does.

That's why those of us who like to drive our cars fast spend a lot of money on safety equipment. However, all too often I see how well-intentioned modifications to the car's safety systems end up making the vehicle less safe for the driver and the passengers.

Before I get into all the ways to go wrong, let me start with an example of a correct race car safety system.

These days, a closed-wheel race car will most likely have a roll cage, a containment seat, and driver restraints such as the 5- or 6-point harness, a helmet, and a HANS device. There are more things to it, like window and center nets, and hand tethers, but I will only concentrate on the essentials here.

The roll cage does what its name promises, namely prevents the roof and the sides of the car from collapsing if the car rolls over. It also adds stiffness in case of collision with other vehicles. The cage is rigidly bolted or ideally welded to the car's frame.

A good racing seat will fit the driver snugly and support and protect her head, shoulders, ribcage, back, and legs. Ideally, the seat will be also firmly mounted to the car's frame.

Once these two things are in place, you strap in the driver with a racing harness, which is hooked up to the car's frame at the bottom and the roll cage at the shoulders.

Noticing a pattern there? Everything is somehow attached to the car's frame.

This means, that when the car stops abruptly (by say, hitting a tire barrier or a wall), everything that is firmly attached to the frame will stop as well. That includes our driver.

This is where the HANS device becomes important. HANS stands for Head And Neck Support, and what it does is keep the driver's head from continuing to move (and snapping off) when the rest of the body has come to an abrupt stop when the car hit that wall.

I find it ironic that it does not take a breakneck speed to break your neck. In a head-on impact against a wall, as little as 30 mph may kill you just like that.

To see what I mean, check out this video showing how much a HANS device restricts the forward motion of the head in a frontal impact at 50 kph (31 mph).

Having seen this, imagine for a moment what adding a racing harness to a stock car would do. Unless you pick the DOT-approved 4-point, which has a seam in one shoulder belt that is designed to expand, allowing for your body to twist and move forward in an impact, you have just made your car not safer, but more dangerous than it was with the factory 3-point belts.

Adding a harness to a street car is a popular modification in the import tuner scene, but this one is not as harmless as body kits, neon, and loud exhausts.

The 3-point restraints that you know from your daily driver are asymmetrical, and allow your body to lean forward and to twist, preventing spine and neck injury that would happen if you were rigidly strapped to your car (such as with a 6-point). An improper 4-point belt will also squish your internal organs, to make matters more entertaining for you.

Now while I am on a roll, let me say that same goes for putting roll bars in cars where your unprotected head may come in contact with the bar in a crash. This is why I always advise people against aftermarket bars unless they are either a) too short to ever reach it, even if the seat collapses in a rear-end collision, or b) will wear a helmet at all times while the car is in motion.

2012-01-04

Customer retention done right

Usually, when you call to cancel a service, the person on the phone will transfer you to the customer retention department. There, they will try to bribe you into staying with discounts, free month of service, and the like. But if you do customer retention right, you start much, much earlier!

Instead of waiting until your dissatisfied customer calls to tell you they are leaving, you can foster a relationship with them while they still like you. Case in point: a gift that I just received from my online store provider, Volusion.

I don't particularly care for the little gift, and the cuteness of the title "My Big Ideas" is totally lost on me. However what worked was the note.

It fell out of the envelope when I was taking out the little notebook, and I missed it at first. When I picked it up and saw the "personal note" printed on the envelope, I rolled my eyes internally.

"Riiiight," my internal dialogue went. "A personal note. Of course."

But my curiosity won over my cynicism and I opened the envelope to reveal a -- GASP! -- hand-written note. A bona-fide hand-written note.

I have seen these before also, and know that they can be just as impersonal as a mass email, but this one revealed that the author actually took the 30 seconds to load my page and pick out one thing they liked about it.

I doubt they spent hours rapt in awe, admiring my storefront. But they actually took the time to visit it, that is certain.

And I can dig that.

2012-01-01

In my mirrors: 2011

2012 is off to a good start as I am writing this on a comfy couch in a sun-drenched living room, while J is sleeping upstairs. It's a great time to look back and recap the year that just ended. Please indulge me while I do so.

As it is quickly disappearing in my rear view mirrors, the 2011 is looking pretty good. It was a busy year to be sure, and one that demanded a lot of me.

It was a year of personal growth, and a year of achievement for me. A year which ended up so much better than its beginning promised.

I rang in 2011 on my own, in my apartment, with a glass of champagne and my blog. I was still in the darkest period of my depression caused by my breakup all the way back in 2009. In early 2011 I finally have gathered enough strength to fight back.

I started with yoga, and did a 40-day intensive program with my teacher Maralle. The work we did together helped me shake off the remaining attachment to the broken relationship and start looking ahead instead of backward.

In racing, it's called driving the mirrors, and as an instructor, I can always tell when my student does it: They lose focus and every upcoming turn surprises them, because they spend most of their attention on what's behind them. That's no way to drive, and surely no way to live either.

Looking ahead, and accepting the change allowed me to enjoy my life and my friendships so much more, as well as open my heart to a new relationship. Quite unsurprisingly, I have known J ever since I moved out to California, but only after I stopped driving my mirrors was I able to see what a great friend he has been all this time. I am grateful to have him in my life, and all my friends who have helped me through the dark time. I cannot name you all here, but you know who you are.

2011 was also a year I started instructing with NASA, Hooked on Driving, and BMW CCA, got my competition license, and ran my first nine races. The instructing gig proved to be great! It allowed me to go to so many more driving events, and to improve my driving so much faster. I took a hiatus from racing to work on my lap times, and the decision paid off. In the upcoming year, I intend to return to racing mid-season, after I have had a chance to solidify my progress.

In other news, I have attended a stunt driving school, launched a Cafepress shop for my art, and started a racing numbers business. Interestingly, I have sold exactly zero art t-shirts, yet my numbers business may have actually made a profit!

All in all, 2011 was a good year, and a great foundation for an awesome 2012. Here's to looking ahead.