Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Deafening quiet

The sporting public will soon have a chance to witness a rare event. Eldrick Woods is about to come out of his closet, his self-imposed exile and rejoin the sporting world. I think I'll call him Eldrick for awhile and let him earn his nickname back. At least outside of the bedroom...groowwll.

It is not however the comeback that I will be watching. It will be the concentration aspect that I find fascinating. Golf is a sport played in quiet, until the dumb*ss in the gallery shouts "it's in the hole" on a par five just after the ball leaves the tee. I have often wondered what I would rather hear, or not hear while trying to finish off a game. Your choices are, in basketball at the end of a game a player attempts a foul shot with ten thousand screaming fans yelling hate at him, or, attempting a putt for a high-dollar prize in total silence, so quiet you could hear grass grow.

I think the silence would be agonizing. I would much rather turn to the gallery and have them start yelling at me, exhorting them on to cheer and scream and yell whatever they want. I think in basketball, if they really wanted to turn the tables on a free throw the crowd should be so quiet you could hear ice melt in their cokes.

If Eldrick starts off quickly he will be just where he needs to be. If he starts off wobbly, I think it will be the concentration and quiet that will do him in and it may be a long Masters weekend. Amen corner to that.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Pom poms on my shoes

The area of town in which I currently work has a rather eclectic mix of individuals. We have everything from the very old (as a retirement community is nearby), to the average middle class to a young urban mix who are much hipper than I. As I am of my age I tend to be a conformist to a degree as my life has settled into a comfortable pattern over the years. Perhaps we do emulate our parents to some extent.

As I returned from lunch today I spied a young lady standing at the corner waiting to cross the street. Her dress was much hipper than anything I would otherwise indulge in (she had large pom poms on her shoes), albeit except for my cowboy boots. As well in my vicinity there are multiple styling schools for hair and the like. I see the students come and go every day. Although none look exactly alike nearly all have one characteristic; they dress very 'out of the ordinary'.

To some respect I believe most feel the need to be different, to stand out. I get it, I was young once. Often though many go way beyond the norm to the extreme. Hair now is colored beyond belief, or tucked and chopped or whatever else they do to it. Their wardrobe is as well nearly a costume. They want to stand out, they want to get noticed. Why is it then when anyone stops and looks they seem offended? If you want to look different there is a reason, and that reason is to call attention to yourself. If you choose to call attention to yourself others will look. If they don't, you then failed in the prime reason you wanted to make yourself look different.

The thought that struck me today was not that this young lady was different but that because she wanted to go to the near-extreme no one will take her seriously. There are very few professions in life that the extreme is a badge of honor or a badge of courage. In the real world extreme only makes others distance themselves from you thereby forcing you to work much harder to be taken seriously than someone who is closer to the norm.

Be yourself, dress how you choose, but realize you live in a world that is a little more pragmatic than you think, fair or not. How hard you have to work to overcome yourself is up to you.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Truman Show

This may be a little long-winded. I'm not sure where this will take me; I like to keep posts less than novella length, but here goes.

I won't pretend I can see into the future and tell everyone how the health care legislation will affect us. I'm sure no one foresaw everything the Medicare program could have wrought over the years. Obviously there are good points and bad points to any legislation, hopefully the good will outweigh the bad, but at this time no one will be able to tell and if they assure you they can, they are delusional. The program is too complex for anyone, and I mean anyone to have all the answers.

My objection to this whole thing is how our beloved congress went about the whole thing. It stinks of bribery and I'm sure other things that are likely illegal, at least if the rest of us were involved. Congress, in its infinite wisdom has exempted itself from itself. Whatever the consequences of this legislation they will not be forced to have their lives interrupted by its inconveniences.

It seems to me that all rules regarding the US Congress should be thrown out and the entire process started over. Everything should be transparent, no backroom deals, no smoke filled rooms. C-Span should be turned into one big reality show with members of congress followed by a camera at all times. They may be allowed bathroom breaks but only in approved rooms. Congress is a mess and it's time to get things cleaned up. No longer should they be exempt from their own rules. If legislation is passed they need to feel its full effects in their personal lives.

Congress has likely caused as many problems with this country has they have solved. They continue to rob social security to pay for other things year after year yet their own pensions are exempt. I would propose the entire pension fund for congress be thrown into social security and that is what they have to live on when they retire. With the new medical legislation, that should be their only option along with whatever else the rest of us have available.

All legislation going forward should be limited to items that pertain to the legislation. Apparently the health care bill has an item within its contents that overhauls the student loan process for education. For what purpose? What does this have to do with health care? It was likely a bribe for a vote. This legislation whether you deem it good or bad was passed through parliamentary tricks with the majority party pulling out arcane rules to force it through. I go back to one of my original posts concerning the state that had a law where a donkey couldn't sleep in a bath tub. The purpose of this law is no longer valid and I'm sure many of the rules under which congress funtions fit the same mold.

If they don't want to be on the 'New C-SPAN' reality show and have their every move scrutinized, perhaps they shouldn't run for office. That's one reality show I would eagerly watch, tax dodging, extra-marital affairs, back room deals and all. It could be the new 'Truman Show'.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Farewell to an old friend

Freedom died another death today.

The great American dream of freedom of choice and the pursuit of happiness died today as legislation was signed into law making it a crime not to purchase health insurance.

Goodnight, America; it was great while it lasted.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Carpe diem

There comes a time in life whether it be personal, business or industry that a particular entity can not afford to pass up. It is their make or break time. It is a time where they must seize the opportunity, seize a time that may never come again.

That time is now for American automakers. Over the decades we have been led to believe by their advertising they were competitive and their products were just as good as any other, be it from Tokyo or Berlin. As we look back on what Detroit offered us we should be ashamed of ourselves for buying nearly anything they rolled down the line. Although styling changes often in less than a decade, who can relate to the K car line once offered by Chrysler? They nearly fell apart just running down the street. To this day I see autos and trucks from times past put out by GM where the paint was so thin and poorly applied it peeled off in sheets and they did nothing about it. Ford was no better offering vehicles where wheel bearings would nearly fall off. They have been making autos for over one hundred years and can't produce safe wheel bearings? It is these kind of issues that plagued consumers over and over again. It's no wonder the buying public turned to overseas companies. American automobiles seemed as though they were designed and built by sixth graders.

In today's landscape Toyota is struggling with quality issues and consumer confidence is failing. With the 'big three' all coming out of financial crisis, two from bankruptcy, now is the time to seize an opportunity American auto makers haven't had in five decades and win back customers with a quality product. The American public doesn't need the low quality rust buckets once forced upon them. Automakers need to look beyond initial quality and make a product that stands up to ten years of normal use without significant repeated failures. If they do, the buying public will spend their dollars at home and the big three may yet again become the big three. If they fail, let em die and they have no one to blame but themselves.

I own an eleven year old Isuzu that still has the original exhaust system. Why can't Detroit do that? (Of course I just jinxed myself and it will likely fall off tomorrow).

Thursday, March 18, 2010

And the 66th best team is...

There is talk in basketball land about expanding the tournament to ninety-six teams. Now, I'm all for exciting sports but I can't think of a more unexciting way to end a perfectly good basketball season. March madness is about the only time I watch much bball, I might as well enjoy it.

So, who would be in the expanded field? Think of it this way. You would have to include the top two seeds from the NIT tournament and a few of the other bubble teams that didn't make it into a bracket. Okay, that's about ten to twelve more. On top of that you still need another twenty to twenty-two teams. We might as well let the teams that finished second in their conferences come along that don't get an automatic bid such a East-Western Northern Missouri Southern State. That ought to get you another six. That still leaves fourteen to sixteen teams to get up to ninety-six.

As this has likely given you pause to think, you're not adding quality teams into the mix you're just adding filler. The tournament shouldn't be about adding good teams. There are plenty of good teams in college, the tourney is about competing with only the best teams. You are not getting Kansas vs Texas with more teams you are only getting San Louis Abisbo St. vs the best junior college guys you can find that couldn't get an offer letter from Alcorn State Athens campus. What's the point in that?

(Credit to Jason Smith, ESPN all night host as some of this is stolen from listening to his show). But hey, I thought I would pass it along as this is about the best argument I've heard for not expanding the field.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Turquoise waters and little else

Two years ago I saw a management position within my company open up on, let's just say a tropical Caribbean island (which will go nameless so as not to besmirch all such islands). I told My Beloved and we joked about leaving our world and settling in to such a place, spending the rest of our lives basking on a nearby beach scant feet away from turquoise waters. How many of us wouldn't love to do that at some point? I asked my district boss about it simply as a matter of curiosity and never spoke of it again.

Last week I was speaking with a fellow manager as we killed three hours on a trip to a district meeting. He remembered the posting and did more than I. He spoke to the human resources rep that covered the off-shore location. I was intrigued!

Now, my fellow manager is a rather large (tall and muscular) individual with a quick wit and a very driven personality. The HR rep asked how he operated his location. Was he a demanding manager, very much on top of things? As is his nature he said he was. Her response was; you can't manage that way here. All your employees will walk out on you. They will also spread the word about town and no one will come work for you. Needless to say he was speechless. She asked; can you manage in that type of environment? He thought for a minute and said no.

His next question just begged to be asked as retail stores operate on a semi-fixed type of payroll model. In essence your payroll dollars are tied to your overall sales. The higher the sales the higher your payroll and vice-versa. He asked, how can you afford payroll in a store such as this? Her response; they operate with forty percent more payroll than the normal state-side store.

In our world life and work is about challenge and when you overcome challenges you build a successful life, albeit with a few bumps along the road. If you ever wondered why some places in the world seem to have little or no successes, this is one explanation; some cultures just don't care. Think about that the next time someone asks you for a donation of your hard earned money to help the 'less fortunate', and no, it was not the island of Haiti.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Heretic III

As I drove into work this morning I happened to listen again to one of my least favorite radio programs. But, at 7:30am on a Saturday there's not much to listen to. It's the local open phone call in show and we were subjected to the religious pontifications of a caller. He was expounding on why the Trinity is so important in our lives. That's great.

He kept referring to the Bible like it was the only book he had ever read. I have previously given my thoughts on it's contents in this ramble and will not repeat them again, save to say I can't believe someone, or anyone would wrap their entire belief structure around the contents of a single book. Would you do it for any other piece of literature? I wouldn't.

What started me a'thinkin' was actually a scientific notion. What happens in fifty or five-hundred years when, as I believe will happen eventually, our human race discovers life on another world? It could be microbial, or fully developed and completely unlike ourselves. The Bible says God made man in his own image. Yes, I believe that. But what will happen to the belief structure of others who don't believe in evolution? Microbial or simple multi-cell life would possibly put a damper on that one but most assuredly a fully developed life form different from mankind would squash the beliefs of many.

I often think most Bible-thumpers have a much too narrow view of God. In His infinite wisdom He created us and most likely others as well. Don't let the narrow-minded printed word from a single book become your only view of God. Expand your thoughts and beliefs and you might just get a greater sense of majesty, awe and reverence for your Creator.

Monday, March 8, 2010

It's Not Like It Is Real Money

In today's mail I received a pre-sorted first class rate piece of mail from my friendly local US government, specifically the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, U.S. Census Bureau.

It is even stamped OFFICIAL BUSINESS.

My first thought was, I know the census form this year is only 10 questions, but it still felt a bit light.

Much to my surprise, this was not the census form I was expecting. It was a letter that told me to expect the real census (excuse me, Census) form in the mail in about a week, and I should fill it out and mail it promptly because my response is "important".

With all of the advertisements in the papers, on the web, and over the air telling me the Census is on the way, not to mention the huge UNITED STATES 2010 Census signs in my office!), I would have hoped my friendly local US government agency would not spend goodness-knows how much money sending these letters to every household (or maybe they just sent them to wanting-smaller-gummint folks like myself.)

If they are going to waste money doing this, just what else are they willing to waste it on?

That was a rhetorical question, by the way.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

The Cosmo Prophesies

No, not Kramer. I'm speaking of the all-knowing, all-seeing, all guy-interpreting women's magazine. They again are letting their faithful know what us guys really mean. This time lets see how well they really know 'guy-speak'.

Guy says...
1. Lets hang out sometime: Cosmo thinks it means he's afraid to ask you out for fear you'll say no. I'm not buying that one. It is just one way for guys who think they're cool to get a first step in. Either that or they're blowing you off in a polite way.

2. I'll call you later: Cosmo thinks it means he'll call you between now and three months. Well, that may have some legs but more likely he won't call you at all unless he gives a definitive time frame.

3. My Ex is crazy: Cosmo thinks it means I messed her up and she got upset. I don't even know what that means. Most guys I know mean their 'ex' is a lunatic.

4. That guy seems like a good friend of yours: Cosmo thinks it means, was there anything ever between you? Okay, they nailed that one.

5. It's a long story: Cosmo thinks it means its a story that makes me look bad. That's one possible explanation, but it could also mean that was a lot more hassle than it was really worth.

6. That's a new look: Cosmo thinks it means 'you look weird'. Here's where this one breaks down; unless you completely revamp your entire image and wardrobe most guys won't even notice.

7. Why are you being so emotional? Cosmo thinks it means 'why are you being psycho? That would be the high end of it but likely it means why are you overreacting to something so small?

8. That's not what I meant: Cosmo thinks it means 'that's what I meant but now I see you're upset and I shouldn't have said it out loud. That's one possible scenario and it could also mean you are twisting my words and/or throwing back something in my face that has absolutely nothing to do with what this discussion is about.

9. It's fine: Cosmo thinks it means it's not really fine but I don't want to talk about it now. I can live with that but most men say what they mean and it's fine means it's fine, no big deal.

10. Can we talk about this later? Cosmo says it means I never want to talk about this again. More than likely it means my argument at this particular time sucks and I need to rethink it if I'm going to win this.

All in all I would rate their advise to women on this as a C- at best. We as men have come to realize when it comes to dealing with women unless we are in a totally hopeless situation we usually say what we mean.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

I'm paid to like this

Recently another sponsor of Tiger Woods decided to drop him from their advertising. In this case it doesn't seem to have (on the surface) anything to do with his recent troubles. Gatorade began phasing out his products back in '09 before his revelations.

That begs the question I have often considered, what makes a spokesman attractive to the general public? Many times it is recently newsworthy persons. I am quite sure there will be many Olympians showing up on commercials during the remainder of this year. I'm also very confident in saying you likely won't see any of those still on endorsements by next year. That type of celebrity seems to have no staying power. On occasion someone will breakthrough and is able to launch themselves on to something else. But that is the exception to the rule.

I can't think of any product that I ever purchased because someone famous or newsworthy endorsed it on a commercial or in any other form of advertising. I don't buy Subway because Michael Phelps swims through concrete. I never purchased a bottle of Coke because (back in the day) the high profile Bill Cosby was a Coke guy. I understand companies attractions to jumping on the latest celebrity bandwagon but that doesn't work for me. How little does it say about us as a culture or a people that we purchase a product simply because a noteworthy person is paid to endorse it? Do we really believe that product is their favorite just because we see it in advertising? That's what the advertisers want us to believe.

Endorsements are a funny thing. Companies pay celebrities millions of dollars to promote their products that they rarely would otherwise use, but we wear their name proudly across our *ss free of charge. Who's the stupid one in that scenario?