Tuesday, May 25, 2010


At first glance, the modern rock band Stone Temple Pilots and CSE Insurance, or any insurance provider for that matter, have little in common. Other than both the band (STP for short) and CSE being based in California. Ah, but there are common threads.

STP released an eponymous (self-titled) album today, their first new one since 2001. To this listener's ears, it's a good one. Loaded with songs that manage to be both tuneful and rock out, the album shows unmistakable influences, without being imitative, from California-based bands of days gone by such as the Byrds and the Beach Boys. To the vast majority of the album's listeners, who have no idea who the aforementioned bands are, Stone Temple Pilots will doubtless sound like something entirely fresh and new. Actually, in many respects it's quite old-fashioned.

Which is where the connection between STP and CSE is rooted.

Again, not that there's any direct connection, affiliation with or endorsement of one by the other. (Personally, I love the album.) Where the parallels are drawn is in how, while considered to be modern, Stone Temple Pilots draw heavily from better elements of the past to flesh out the present.

Which is an excellent way to do business.

And it's how we do it.

CSE has some terrific services and processes at its disposal, with more to come. Yet we deliver these not solely through a website. Instead, we rely on our agent force. They are the ones who will always be best equipped to answer an individual customer's questions and direct them toward the coverage they need. You can't beat that.

Today is bursting with promise and innovation. But in so many areas, nothing beats old school.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Excerpts From Epic Essays

Passed along to me by a co-worker upon noting the stacks of essays I read (over 250) for our scholarship contest.

Every year, English teachers from across the country can submit their collections of actual analogies and metaphors found in high school essays. These excerpts are published each year to the amusement of teachers across the country:
Here are last year's winners...

Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it, and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

She grew on him like she was a colony of E. Coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

He was as tall as a six-foot, 3-inch tree.

The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.

McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. Instead of 7:30.

Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. Traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m., at a speed of 35 mph.

They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan's teeth.

John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant, and she was the East River.

Even in his last years Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long it had rusted shut.

Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

On The Side Of People

There is a growing resentment in the general populace of public employees. This stems from several reasons: lack of accountability for their job performance (a subject thoroughly examined in a recent New York Times article), generous wages (for example, more than one out of every three people employed by the city of San Francisco earned $100,000 or better last year), lavish benefits packages sucking state budgets dry and a growing anti-big government sentiment exemplified by the Tea Party movement.

Without disrespecting civil servants or taking sides politically, it must be said this resentment is tangible. How, then, can we as an insurance provider, whose primary market is public employees, along with our independent agent force respond to both this sentiment and the insurance needs of public employees?

The challenge is to be empathetic toward civil servants while maintaining a strict neutrality in matters of public policy. It's not an easy task. There is always the temptation to take sides, be it due to personal political convictions or professional concerns. But it's not an option.

What can/should/must be done is exemplified in this blog's title: the human touch. Insurance is a people business. Person A buys a policy from Company A, which is made up of its employees, through Agent A. Should Person A require the services being paid for in said policy, Company A and Agent A take care of Person A's needs. It is not important what name is on the upper left hand corner of Person A's paycheck. It's the one to whom the paycheck is addressed. That's all.

Yes, there are times being in this business feels like an exercise in tap-dancing your way through a minefield. Ultimately, however, the service provided trumps the threat of being labeled as a toadie for one side or the other. We're on the side of people. Period.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Teenagers Speak Up On How To Reduce Their Own Auto Accident Rate

As mentioned Tuesday, today we'll be looking at some of the winning entries in this year's CSE Insurance scholarship contest.

As we're in the process of notifying the winners, we won't be posting their names here just yet. This will be rectified as soon as everyone is notified.

Anyway, here are some excerpts from some of the award winners. This one takes a sober (no pun intended) look at the root cause of teen-involved car accidents:

At the core of the issue is a basic theme of bloated self-esteem; teens today are much too self-confident and view themselves as omnipotent and invincible. The Millennial Generation has been raised in an environment in which parents and teachers constantly remind teens of their uniqueness and individuality, which has led to a belief among teens that they can never do anything wrong. This mentality is most readily apparent in motor accidents, in which teens do not pay attention to the various risks of cars, such as driving when still unskilled, entering the car of a drunk driver, or igniting an engine while high or intoxicated. Such irresponsible behavior could be reduced with a general reform of the mentality in our households and schools.

Another uses a more personal approach:

The abrupt vision of a familiar metal form filling the space where sunlight should have been. The dark sting of impact. The shattering chaos of raining glass. The spirit's silent screaming, "No... no... no!" The instinctive reaching for the phone, and the face that appears at the window to take it from me, to tell my father that she's just witnessed his daughter's wreck. On quiet nights this vision violently invades my sleepy thoughts as I begin to drift out of consciousness. It happened over a year ago, but it's still the story I tell most often.

For quite some time my brain was mesmerized by the million little factors that played into the event. It was an endless game of what-if, but the sole factor that decisively caused the accident was the one I did not want to face: I had been inattentive.

Another bears a theme similar to the first essay quoted, emphasizing personal responsibility:

I think education is the key to fighting the inexperience, immaturity, irresponsibility and peer pressure. High school students are coddled and mothered on virtually every aspect of their education. Schools teach virtually nothing about real life: the realities of working for a living, personal finances, balancing checkbooks, paying taxes, contracts, leases, crime, and the draft. Graduation itself has become an entitlement, where teachers are afraid to stigmatize a student with a harsh grade, to attach a penalty (or even a label) to personal failure, and are often forbidden to use red ink when grading a paper. When social correctness trumps every aspect of education, how can we be surprised that students are inexperienced, immature, and irresponsible?

Finally, on a somewhat lighter note we have a winning entry that proves there is at least one high school senior out there who paid attention during class:

The basic mathematical equation is simple: a new driver, in other words a teenager, plus a license, in addition to a car, equals a possibility of an accident. When attempting to solve this problem, to produce a different sum, a mathematician should take in account every strategy such as elimination, substitution, and basic addition. Managing every variable in the equation carefully and concisely will lead to a more favorable result -- lower teenage automobile accident rates.

And here's the kicker:

The young woman who wrote the above is a varsity cheerleader.

So much for that cliché, what say?

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Seriously Good Scholarship Winners

Make sure you stop by here this Thursday when we announce the winners of this year's scholarship contest! We'll be printing some of the winning essays. You will be impressed, guaranteed.

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Thursday, May 6, 2010

Serving The People Who Are In Need

As mentioned last week, the other day we, the employees of CSE, brought new meaning to our slogan “we serve the people who serve the people.” Through voluntarily giving up earned paid vacation days, we made possible a donation of over ten thousand dollars to the American Red Cross for its continued relief effort in Haiti following the devastating earthquake suffered earlier this year by the island nation.

The donation of $10,783.93 was presented on Thursday April 29 by our Vice President of Market Strategy and Business Development Matthew Hull to American Red Cross Bay Area Chapter Chief Executive Officer Harold Brooks.

This donation came about entirely at the suggestion of the employees here at CSE. Immediately following the quake, the question of what we could do to help was raised. Giving in the manner we did was suggested, and we ran with it.

The timing of when the donation was made was intentional. By waiting until now, we’ve helped the Red Cross with their work at a time when other events have pushed the Haitian earthquake out of the headlines even through the relief work remains an ongoing effort.

Glad we not only could help... but did.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Every so often, a hue and cry is raised about the desensitizing nature of excessive media exposure to assorted images. The amount of violence consumed by the average television viewer or video game player is astonishing. Whether this makes us less aware of the horrific nature of these crimes has oft been debated. For the sake of this post, it is assumed there is at least some truth to the argument for such being the case.

Similarly, we have all seen enough natural disasters, be they genuine on the evening news or computer and/or model-generated images at your local movie theater, to have an eerie familiarity with their appearance. Pictures of refugee camps and shelters for those displaced by forces far beyond man's control abound. If anything, they are in overabundance. One can become immune to such scenes, embracing a false sense of detachment based on the separation between photograph or moving image and ourselves. It seems surreal. And so it seems unreal.

Until it becomes personal.

By now you've most likely seen the pictures of the flood waters that have engulfed much of Nashville. The inside of Grand Old Opry with water reaching the top of the seats that for years have been filled with country music fans. Freeways so overrun with water it covers the roofs of cars trapped there. Businesses and homes awash, devastated, destroyed.

One of those homes belongs to Bob and Jayne Farrell.

The names may not be familiar to you. But they are to me.

I'll let this note from their daughter, as posted on Facebook, explain the background:

May 1st 2010 the sky opened up over Nashville. The water came down and the rivers, creeks and lakes rose up and swallowed houses and whole communities. One of the stories in this disaster belongs to Bob and Jayne Farrell.

Bob and Jayne fought the rising waters until the early hours of the morning of May 2nd when finally chest high water sent them out of their home into the rising floodwaters and the arms of the Nashville Fire Department’s Water Rescue teams. They left their modest home on an idyllic creek losing everything they owned. As of this moment Bob’s only vice, a beat-up old Miata that he was always threatening to restore has floated away.

Many of you who grew up on early Contemporary Christian Music would know them better as “Farrell and Farrell”. The artists behind such hits as “People In A Box”, “Earthmaker” and writer of hit songs for other artists such as “Heirlooms” from Amy Grant’s first Christmas CD.

I know them by another name, Mimi and Poppy. These are the names bestowed on them by their grandchildren, my children. Bob and Jayne have spent their lives giving of themselves not only through a ministry of music but in their day to day lives living out the sacrificial and messy business of the gospel of Christ. They didn’t start their careers for a record deal. In fact there were no CCM labels when they began. The yard where my sons have played is under the deluge, the kitchen that they restored in this old home, is covered in the bitter waters. The piano where Bob sat with his grandkids to teach them to play is destroyed. There are no more family dinners around the table, which was a regular feature of our lives for more than a decade.

Their loss is total. They made it out with the clothes on their backs.

I was one of those people who had everything Farrell and Farrell recorded. One of their songs, "Scars", has long been a source of comfort.

Now, they are the ones who have been scarred.

It's easy in this business to forget there are people on the other end of the phone or camera. It's almost easy to forget, when dealing with the everyday mundane aspects of the job, the reason why we do this. Sometimes it takes a jarring reminder to put it back into focus.

Knowing artists you cherished for years have lost everything definitely qualifies as jarring.

Here's hoping whoever their insurer may be treats them properly.

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