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RIP my dear cousin Fran

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My cousin Frances (Fran) Cartman and I in Montreal, Canada – August 2007

RIP my dear cousin Fran. You always had listening ears and encouraging words for everyone around you. I have vivid memories of your smiling face as you helped students (and me) at the John Molson School of Business, your frequent and fierce hugs, and how you never failed to use an opportunity to tell me you loved me. Please give Bob a poke in the tummy for me.

An African bush elephant in Liwonde National Park

An African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana) along the banks of the Shire River in Malawi.

This is Loxodonta africana, or the African bush elephant, which is the largest living land animal in the world. It is found in about 37 countries on the continent. I photographed this elephant on the banks of the Shire River in Malawi. From what I have read this is likely a female – distinguished from the males by a rounder, more sloping shape of its head.

Compensation offer from United Airlines

For those of you following my long-running customer service debacle with United Airlines, they have sent me a cheque for US$1600 plus a US$250 travel voucher as a customer service gesture (they are assuming I want to fly with them again).

The value of my goods lost was US$3000 and I claimed US$2000 because I could not provide receipts for the rest. They haven’t provided a breakdown of how they arrived at US$1600 and have assumed I would be happy to accept their offer. I don’t think I am going to accept it and I am going to fight for the balance.

For those of you who think I should take the money because it’s all I am ever going to get out of them, you may be right. But the bigger issue for me is the way I have been treated throughout this whole process.

So long as I can help it, I will not fly with them again until they actually listen to me and compensate me for my loss. I have already booked one flight with a competing airline – it cost me more but if I am not willing to put my money where my mouth is, then what good is my word? I will not be a sheep.

The value of the LinkedIn endorsements feature

Few months ago, I complained to some friends about the LinkedIn endorsements feature. There was no opt-out feature and receiving constant email updates was in my opinion nothing more than spam. Worse, a few of my early endorsers were acquaintances I met once at a conference or in a business meeting. One ticked the box on “Stata”, a statistical analysis software package I have never used. A Ugandan colleague I have never met endorsed me for speaking French (how would she know?). Overall, it seemed like a silly exercise!

Since then, LinkedIn has eliminated the email updates and I’m noticing an improvement in the quality of the endorsements. The endorsements feature uses crowd-sourcing to achieve a consensus view on what you’re good at. If you end up with 40 or 50 people endorsing you for “business development” or “program management” or “communications”, its probably a fairly reasonable assessment as to your skill set and area of expertise.

LinkedIn still has improvements to make. In the image below LinkedIn offers suggestions on possible skill endorsements. This is bad survey practice as it leads the respondent to an answer they might not otherwise have provided. A better way to approach the tool would be to hide my current endorsements and encourage connections to type in a few key words, e.g. “manages programs well” and have LinkedIn auto-complete with the most common matching phrase. The technology exists – why not use it?


Second, LinkedIn could include a second question which asks the endorser to rank how well they know the endorsee. Someone who I worked with in the past and who says they know me “very well” would rank higher in comparison to an endorsement from someone who met me only once. This would provide at least some means of validating their ability to assess my skills/expertise.

Perhaps a final improvement could be to allow the endorsee to choose whether or not to accept an endorsement from a certain individual. This might be useful if you are positioning yourself as a candidate for a job in the pharma industry and don’t want to be pigeon-holed as an auto-manufacturing supply chain specialist.

Memories of my father

Remembering your …

Voice when you would answer my phone calls from overseas
Smile and wave of the hand while running
Finger pointed at the ticker on the screen
Thoughts for cousins far and wide
Arm on the window while driving
Nicknames for those dear to you: chuffnut or bozo
Or politicians whose views you didn’t agree with: nut job or scallywag or scoundrel
Jokes: cheese, wit and oft-repeated
And scarfing down a bag of pretzels like no tomorrow.

These memories give me laughter.
I love you and miss you.