President Obama – Please do more!

Dear President Obama,
Everyone I know is sickened by the oil spill. Why does it seem that our government is not doing enough to clean it up? I don’t care whose responsibility it is! Can’t we step-up the involvement of the armed forces? What about other oil companies? Instead of arguing about responsibility. we should be uniting to fight this catastrophe.

Susan Labandibar

“Can I quit now?”

The morning that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans, causing a fatal levee breach that claimed the lives of 1,200 people, Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) chief, Michael Brown, wrote an email to his public affairs department joking: “Can I quit now? Can I go home?” Anyone with a real background in emergency management knows that it is critical to react quickly, and with all possible intensity, as soon as the crisis emerges.

I’m afraid that Tony Hayward, CEO of British Petroleum, also felt like burying his head under the pillow, as the oil leak crisis continues to escalate out of control, with 4.2 million gallons of oil already spilled into the Gulf of Mexico.

As for me, after three weeks of waking up at night with anxiety attacks about this blow to our environment, I am ready to hammer Mr. Hayward (and President Obama) with some of the questions I ask as when I manage a crisis in my own business, where we are responsible for keeping our customers’ servers up and running 24/7:

Mr. Hayward:

How many people should develop solutions for stopping the leak? Are other oil companies jumping in to help BP, producing solutions in parallel?

How do we know that all available technologies are being brought to bear, regardless of whether they are proprietary, and all experts in this field have been consulted, regardless of their location or employer?

Is cost a limiting factor in the efforts to stop the leak? Are there solutions, such as using tankers to siphon oil-contaminated water from the spill area for treatment, that are currently not being implemented because of cost?

Is BP working with all possible speed on the relief well? Why only one relief well?

What happens if BP’s efforts to drill another well suffer a setback? Would another company be able to drill a second one, and potentially faster?

President Obama:

Who is representing the interests of the public in this matter? Who is verifying BP’s statements?

What else is flowing out of the well besides oil? Are gasses such as SO3 flowing out of the well, contributing to ocean acidification?

Why can’t the government get involved in the efforts to stop the flow? Isn’t this a matter of national security?

Are there solutions available to the government, such as oil dispersal at a low depth with submarines, that are not being implemented?

As concerned citizens, we must not continue to let this crisis unfold. Instead of finger-pointing, we need an all-out effort to resolve this problem. Please contact Mr. Tony Hayward’s office at BP and the White House.

I canceled my Chase card!

Today, the Rainforest Action Network and its partners are conducting a campaign against JP Morgan Chase which is financing mountaintop removal coal mining. I canceled the card and cut it up. Here’s my letter to them:

Please cancel my Chase card. I am not going to do business with any company that is financing mountain top removal coal mining. I have averaged about $2,500 in charges per statement over the last year and I have been a Chase cardholder since 2005. I have the greatest respect for the Rainforest Action Network. If they tell me to cancel my Chase card, I m canceling it! I need to find a more socially responsible financial institution.


Susan Labandibar

If you’d like to participate, please go to

The Downside of Free Internet Software

When I got back from Indonesia, I created a private site on Ning for those who had been on my tour. Using the site, we email each other, exchange photos and organize our volunteer efforts to support Orangutan Foundation International. Our discussions are organized around such topics as recruiting for the Communications Officer, organizing the next tour, and fundraising, fundraising, fundraising.

On September 3rd, the Ning messaging server crashed. I remained calm throughout the episode, being well-accustomed to server crashes. But I was rather surprised when the server came back up minus two days of our group’s email. I sent an email to the Ning help desk inquiring as to the status of our emails. Here is the reply I received:

From: Ning Help Center []
Sent: Monday, September 14, 2009 7:00 PM
To: Susan Labandibar
Subject: re: After your messaging server crashed, our group lost all of i.. [ ref:00D8cCLt.50048U0MV:ref ]

Hey There!

Unfortunately, do to the way in which messaging went down we weren’t able to grab these messages. I apologize for any inconvenience this has caused. We’ve since put some things in place to mitigate this from happening in the future.

Please let me know if there’s anything else.


As an English major, I take umbrage at this email. First, there is the question of tone. You have just lost my email. Do NOT begin your email with the salutation: “Hey there!”

Second, I would have appreciated it if “Mr. Alex” could have at least formulated a grammatical sentence to inform me of the bad news. Of the three sentences in his main paragraph, two are egregiously wrong. “Unfortunately, do to the way in which messaging went down we weren’t able to grab these messages.” May I suggest, Mr. Alex, that you meant to say “due to the way in which messaging went down?” By the way, I love the way you write of a server going down, and the failure to “grab” the messages. It’s as though the server was literally falling through space and the Ning staff was helplessly trying to nab these messages as they fluttered away. Perhaps, instead of reaching out to grab the messages, you should have backed them up prior to the server crash?

I would also like to point out that, in the next sentence you promise that you will “mitigate this from happening in the future.” Well, Alex, that’s just swell. I hope you can mitigate yourself from being on unemployment, because that’s where I would put you if you ever worked on my help desk.


Susan Labandibar

P.S. I just checked my mailbox and the emails are back! Guess those butterfly nets that they used to grab the messages worked after all!

My Dad and the Orangutans

On a day in June 2000, a doctor performed a biopsy on my father that showed he had mucosal melanoma, a rare and fatal cancer.  The next morning, as I was standing in the shower, a shock wave of emotion and loss hit me.  In that moment, I realized that my family would never be the same again.  My father’s illness and impending death became a grim shadow in my life.
My life with the shadow was divided into two parts.  In my normal life, I continued running my business and taking care of my rescue pug, Tristin.  In my shadow life, I poured over medical research, corresponded with doctors, and reviewed all available clinical trials, trying to find a cure for my dad.
Finding a balance between my normal life and the shadow life was challenging.  Of course, nothing was more important that helping my father.  But what was the likelihood that–even if I devoted my every waking moment to keeping him alive–I could anything to save him?  Thus I alternated between guilt and despair, until his death in February 2004.

Saving the Boston Globe

I’ve joined a dozen other bloggers in posting this message simultaneously:

We have all read recently about the threat of possible closure faced by the Boston Globe. A number of Boston-based bloggers who care about the continued existence of the Globe have banded together in conducting a blog rally. We are simultaneously posting this paragraph to solicit your ideas of steps the Globe could take to improve its financial picture.

We view the Globe as an important community resource, and we think that lots of people in the region agree and might have creative ideas that might help in this situation. So, here’s your chance. Please don’t write with nasty comments and sarcasm: Use this forum for thoughtful and interesting steps you would recommend to the management that would improve readership, enhance the Globe’s community presence, and make money. Who knows, someone here might come up with an idea that will work, or at least help. Thank you.

Good to Great?

Thomas Falk, CEO
351 Phelps Drive
Irving, Texas 75038, USA
Fax: 972-281-1490

Dear Mr. Falk:

I am currently reading Jim Colin’s classic book: “Good to Great,” which lists Kimberly-Clark as one of the nation’s great companies. There is a quote in the book from Dick Appert, a former Kimberly-Clark executive. “I never had anyone in Kimberly-Clark in all my forty-one years say anything unkind to me. I thank God the day I was hired because I’ve been associated with wonderful people. Good, good people who respected and admired one another. ”

To me, it seemed SO incongruous. This is the same company that is purchasing virgin pulp from clear-cut Canadian Boreal forests! Is your company truly composed of good, good people? Why are you spending millions of dollars convincing Americans that only super soft paper is good for wiping their bottoms?

If you are truly a “good” company, I hope that you will change your marketing strategy, and change your purchasing ethics as well.

Perhaps it bears mentioning that I am also the CEO of a company. Tech Networks of Boston has 25 people and four restrooms. You would never find a Kimberly-Clark bathroom tissue product, or any other non-recycled bathroom tissues in our facilities.


Susan Labandibar


Tech Networks of Boston

Letter to Brian Wallace, our state rep, on legalizing low-speed electric vehicles

Dear Brian:

I’m wondering if you are planning to come to the next Dorchester Heights Association meeting on November 11th. At the meeting, I will introduce Gretchen Folk, from Grow Boston Greener, who will provide us with information on the various tree planting programs in Boston. I met Gretchen through JP Trees, which is a Grow Boston Greener program.

One way to protect trees is to drive electric vehicles. This is the reason I love my 2002 Toyota Prius hybid. Technicians use my car every day to service our clients. As a company car, my Prius shows up everywhere, even on the Internet!

Although I love my Prius, what I really want is an electric car. Today, there are many low-speed electric cars that I could purchase for about $10,000.  Unfortunately, Massachusetts is one of only four states that do not allow them!  This is ironic, considering that in the 90’s, Massachusetts joined with California to require zero emissions vehicles. If these low-speed electric cars were street-legal, I would buy several of them and give them to our technicians so they could service our clients in South Boston, the South End, Dorchester and Roxbury.

Recently, a few plucky Massachusetts residents who did manage to register their Zapp electric cars as motorcycles (they have three wheels) were told to take them off the street or face arrest! (interview with Zapp owner) This led to a bill (HB5113) sponsored by Bradley H. Jones that would allow low-speed vehicles to be operated on roads with a posted speed of 30MPH or less. While this is better than nothing, it would be much better if they could be operated on roads with a posted speed of 35MPH or less, which was included in the language of a previous bill (HB4377). Of the 46 states that allow low-speed vehicles, all but four would allow low speed vehicles on roads with a 35MPH speed limit.

Since I am unfamiliar with the process, anything you can tell me about the status of these bills and when they might be expected to pass would be very helpful.


Susan Labandibar