Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pandora’s Box, indeed

This blog may sound like an advertisement for the online radio website called “Pandora.” It really isn’t. They aren’t paying me a dime, but I wouldn’t mind if they did! However, it is a blog about musical preferences and why people like what they like.

If you’ve not heard of Pandora online radio, I’m actually surprised. It’s becoming more well known, and I’ve even seen car commercials that state one of the features on the vehicle is Pandora.

What makes Pandora unique is that it is a mixture of radio and your own personal playlist. When you get started, you type in the name of a musical group or song or genre. Pandora randomly picks a song based on what you chose.

And now for the fun part: you, the user, can give it a thumbs up or thumbs down. If you give it a thumbs up, the song will go onto a list that Pandora will play again for you at some point in time. Thumbs down? It won’t play that song again. Pandora will then select a song for you similar to the one you liked, based on something like 400 different attributes. The more songs you like or dislike, the more Pandora narrows down your musical taste.

Pretty cool, huh?

I’ve been listening to Pandora for years. It started in July, 2005, so it’s not all that new. I’ve been introduced to songs and artists I’d never heard of, but end up liking. Even more strange is that there are songs from certain artists that I love, and some songs from the same artists that I can’t stand. Can I explain it? Not really. It’s just that I connect with some songs more than others.

Most of my playlist is from the 80’s, though I have songs from the 70’s, 90’s, and heck, some from the 60’s. I’m sure if a human were to analyze my likes and dislikes, they would scratch their head. I’m sure some of the songs I’ve liked share the exact same attributes as some I’ve given a thumbs down to.

I’m actually a bit afraid to analyze deeper into why I like what I like. How does my taste in music relate to my other personality characteristics? Is there some sort of trauma from my life that makes me hate certain songs? If I define what features in music I’m drawn to, will I feel obligated to like music with the same features?

Pandora’s box, indeed.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Mirror of the Soul

There have been a few moments in my life where I have literally stopped all activity and said, “Whoa!” (As in extreme awe.)

One of those moments was the first time I heard the song The Mirror of the Soul by Chris de Burgh. Yes, I’ve been a huge fan of his for many years, but time and again, some of his songs will transcend above the rest and make a deep personal connection.

I was working for corporate America when The Mirror of the Soul was released. The underlying message of the song resonated with me.

Back then, I directed political programs often and I came to know several of the politicians pretty well. I recall one time the Governor of Connecticut calling me by my first name when she came for one of her visits—it was almost surreal.

While there are some really good people who are honestly trying to make a positive change by becoming politicians, I’ll have to admit I met my fair share of them who were power hungry. Often their bluster and stubbornness on some issues where like little children throwing a tantrum because they didn’t get their way. It jaded me when it came to faith in many of our leaders.

In addition, I worked for a company where nothing was ever good enough. Everything I did was questioned, though our results were outstanding. It was always a matter of more, more, MORE! And of these people who strove for power, they were some of the most unhappy people I’d ever met.

The final lyrics from The Mirror of the Soul are: “All through the world, there are many others who always follow everything they are told by men with rules and regulations, using old superstitions and tales to assume control; But all their dreams of glory, all their schemes and stories, will come to nothing after all. Because a power greater from the world’s creator gave us love to light the mirror of the soul; Only love can light the mirror of the soul.” These words gave me hope.

And now, one of my dreams is coming true as my novel based on this wonderful song is set to be released in April. I only hope I can touch at least one person with my story the way Chris touch me with his.

Disclaimer: Mirror Of The Soul title and lyrics © Chris de Burgh, published by Hornall Brothers Music Ltd.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Interview on "The Good Word"

I had the wonderful experience of being interviewed on “The Good Word” radio podcast.

The interviewer, Nick Galieti, asked some fascinating questions.

During the interview, I talk about my anthology The Night the Port-A-Potty Burned Down and Other Stories as well as discussed my next book, The Mirror of the Soul.

In conjunction with this interview, I’m giving away two signed copies of The Night the Port-A-Potty Burned Down and Other Stories.

Here is how you can win:

Email me at author (at) jlloydmorgan (dot) com with the answer to the following question: What is my favorite baseball team? (The answer is given during the interview.)

I’ll randomly select a winner on March 23rd. You can listen to the podcast by clicking here.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Working off the clock

“Why aren’t you getting this?” would be a question I’d sometimes think, but not say out loud when training newer TV directors. At times, I’d get frustrated with those would kept making the same mistakes over and over. And then I realized something one day: I was measuring the employee based on what I expected of myself. Looking at the situation objectively, the newer directors were actually doing quite well. And it was unfair for me to judge them based on an unrealistic standard.

Granted, I was the Operations Manager and (this won’t sound very humble, I fear, but alas. . .) a darn good TV director. I’d been told by others I had a talent—a gift even. Before I left TV, the directors I worked with were very good—significantly better than most of the directors I’d worked with over the years.

When I left TV (in order to be able to keep commitments to my family) and started working in banking, I faced this same attitude from the other direction. However, my managers and leaders weren’t more skilled, per se, as much as completely “devoted” to their job. (Meaning that they had very little in the way of a life outside of work.) I’d learned that a work / life balance is not only important, but necessary.

Often it is the people who live for work that get promoted. In turn, they fall into the trap as I did as an Operations Manager—they expect everyone to be like them. The irony is that the average worker is often better at their job because they have balance; it lets them be more productive while they are working.

One way these out-of-balance managers manifest their addicted to work behavior is to ask / force their hourly employees to work off the clock. I saw this first hand when I worked at Albertson’s while in college. It happened at Cablevision when I worked there. (I never asked my employees to do that.) I’ve read stories about lawsuits against WalMart for the same practice. In each case, the company was sued, and lost.

I recall a time when I was on a conference call while working at a bank. Our leader asked us managers what we were doing to have our employees hit their sales goals. One manager said she told her employees they had to wear their name badges when they went to lunch and hand out at least three business cards. The leader praised her for the idea and said he wanted all of us to do the same. He even wanted us to track how many business card each employee was handing out each day during their lunch.

Unafraid to speak up when I feel something is wrong, I made it clear I thought it was a bad idea because the employees were off the clock during their lunch and we couldn’t, legally, require them to wear their name badge and hand out business cards. I got all sorts of “push back” (a term they used a lot at that job) because this was a great way for the employees to exceed their goals and make a bonus.

I didn’t budge. There are lines that shouldn’t be crossed. In the end, because I refused to do it, other managers joined with me and we stopped it from happening.

So when I read the reports from the WalMart spokespeople who state, “Only a small percentage of employees have ever been told to work off the clock. We can provide dozens of people who will testify they’ve never been told that.” My response? “Congratulations. However, telling even one person to work off the clock is one person too many.”