Saturday, July 31, 2010

All aboard

Our beloved behemouth newspaper recently ran a story concerning my nearby metropolis school district. Said school district has withdrawn payment to the local transit authority for letting students ride public transportation to school for football practice and other such events.

I was appalled. Since when is the school district a transportation company? The price for these rides was over a half-million dollars. I nearly fell off my chair. It is not the business of a school district to transport children to events or nearly any regular classes as far as I'm concerned, at least not in a major metropolitan city. This isn't Podunctville that needs bus service on long rural roads. Nor is it the seventies when busing was mandated for integration (gosh, where did that get us) and children didn't attend a nearby school. The vast majority of students live within a few miles of the school they now attend. Where are the parents? Isn't it their responsibility to get their children to school for virtually every function their child wants to participate in? The outcry was Johnny has to give up football now because he has no way there. Boo-hoo.

My family growing up was able to provide our own transportation to every event we ever needed to go to. Our parents drove us, we hitched a ride with a friend or we walked. The citizenry cry twice a year every time a new school levy goes on the ballet. Oh, we don't have enough money. We'll have to cut sports, they cry. Do you wonder where your money goes? This is a prime example of a school district trying to be everything to everyone who has a whim.

It's time for school districts to get back to their primary focus of educating the child, not being the butler, maid, chauffeur and parent to everyone who walks through the door. If you can't get your child to school you shouldn't have the child. It's part of being a parent. Get off your *ss and be a parent; take your child to school and get involved.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A long way to say "No!"

Today was a make-up session for those of us at work who managed to duck, er, miss the mandatory annual ethics training class.

Those of us who missed out on the original presentation got to watch a video of the presentation given a few weeks ago.


The presenter knows her stuff, and did a good job with it, but, having heard the same (basic) pitch for a number of years now, it does get dreadfully boring.

I have long believed there is a simple answer to ethics questions, and the 75-minute presentation could be much more narrowed and focused, and dispensed with quickly.

Presenter: "The answer is, 'No'!"
Questioner: "How about..."
Presenter: "No!"
Questioner: "What about..."
Presenter: "No!"
Questioner: "What if..."
Presenter: "No! Got it? Good! See you next year."

Or, as suggested to me today by a co-worker,:
Presenter: "Is that your signature from last year?"
Worker: "Yes."
Presenter: "Good. Sign here, date it, same ethics rules apply; see you next year."

We were fortunate that in the large room in which the video was shown, there was ample space for us to not have to sit too close together, especially after they turned off the lights. Which gave one co-worker the excuse to play with her cell phone; texting, I presume. Probably not very ethical on her part.

I would have complained if I had not had one earplug in listening to my ipod.

Everything needs maintenance

The Sunday morning shows are so full of helpful knowledge to help one work around your currant abode or to buy your next home. Although fairly schooled in the arts of home maintenance I can find snippets of things to occasionally help me in tasks. I am sure as well there are torrents of repair information for the less knowledgeable. Sometimes these shows can cause problems for the weekend warriors as projects and solutions are not shown step by step. That can cause a disaster for those fixing something they witnessed on a repair/remodel show.

Sunday morning as I shuttled about the family room a house hunting show was on. I wasn't paying particular attention until a phrase cause my ear and turned my head. The prospective homeowner mentioned passing up this house due to the maintenance of a hot tub. Really? Maintenance on a hot tub? I have owned tubs/spa for years and believe me, there is generally very little one needs to do to maintain one, add a few chemicals now and then and drain the water a few times a year. If that's what is stopping you from buying a house you better stick to renting.

The problem today is very few people know how to do anything for themselves. They can't paint, put up wallpaper, fix a leaky faucet or nail two boards together. Have we become such a pampered society we have to hire specialists to do everything for us? Does that need to include helping us walk our dog because we are too busy or can't be bothered? I live in a neighborhood with fairly nice homes, some well-kept, some downtrodden. I have never understood why someone would sink their hard earned money into a respectable home and let it to go pot. I have a neighbor whose lawn often resembles a field of wild flowers. Last week I was tempted to take a bottle of Round-Up and spray a message in his lawn. Fortunately, respect for others and a nasty look from My Beloved led to cooler heads.

Houses, cars, tools, spas, pools and nearly every mechanical device needs some sort of maintenance. If you haven't figured that one out, ditch the car and take a bus. That's why your engine blew up; you need to change the oil more than once every fifty thousand miles.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

It doesn't take an MBA

In the nineties, I worked for an independent hardware store under the banner of ServiStar Hardware. The owner of the business was a hands off owner and let us run the business nearly as our own, as we had the better retail backgrounds. ServiStar was a co-op. For those who don't know, the owners of the independent stores actually own the co-op. That set up is in place today for names many know such as Ace and Do-It-Best. The actual co-op is run by a board and a CEO that make direct decisions for the betterment of the group. The value to members is clout. By combining their purchasing power they are able to negotiate for lower prices for all members.

Back 'in the day', Ace was the number one co-op followed by True Value and ServiStar. The latter two joined forces and formed the corporation of TruServ then usurping Ace's position as the top dog. That was in 1999 (I think). Each banner would be supported going forward with the benefits for all. That seemed great on the surface.

As the merger began to take place there were signs (at least to me) that things weren't going to happen even-handedly to both banners. There are operational issues that needed to be overcome such as skus. A sku is the 'stock keeping unit'. It is a number assigned to every item to track, order and sell it. TV used six digit numbers and ServiStar used five digit. It was decided that all member would use six digit skus. As these types of issued were overcome it appeared that the ServiStar owners always lost out to the TV owners. I had this discussion with my owner. She said it didn't matter and they were assured things were equitable. After six months of working through these issues I told her I gave it no more than five years and the name ServiStar would cease to exist and if she wanted to stay in business she should start saving for a new TV sign out front.

I worked for her for less than two more years before moving on, seeing the writing on the wall. The business closed after another two years after surviving twenty good years. That was not the only factor in the close but it was one.

I hadn't thought of it for some time and the other night I went on the internet and looked up the word TruServ. On the first Google page was a hit for the article that said on January 1, 2004 TruServ would officially change its name to True Value Corporation.

It doesn't take an MBA to see the writing on the wall. You just have to pull your head out of the sand.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Begatting of a Superstar

LBJ has fallen from grace. No, not the former president. The King, L. James has left the building.

I wasn't going to comment on this as it has unfolded but it just doesn't want to leave the airways. I am not a viewer of pro basketball. As it is I haven't watched more than fifteen minutes of a pro game (combined) in the last decade. It does not interest me. I know the participants and the teams due to the fact that I am a regular listener of sports-talk radio. And, alas the former king is a resident of my home state.

I don't care that he has vacated his position as king and savior. He is in a business and as an employee should look out to better his position. As a rule I don't think that theory naturally applies to major superstars who will make more money for a partial season's work than I will see in my lifetime. Still, on the surface I don't deride him for changing teams as that is the common state of professional sports in our day and age. No longer do stars complete their careers with the teams they started with. Cleveland, get over it.

That's on the surface. As I have listened to the debate drone on, the one thing I haven't heard from anyone in the media is this: LeBron James built his entire status as the savior of the Cavs, the hometown hero, the man who would pull the city of Cleveland into New York status. He labored for seven years, not nearly an entire career then took his ball and went home. Well, actually he went to warm sandy beaches.

For that reason I don't blame the fans of Cleveland for wanting to burn his house to the ground. He created his status not only on the court but by his words to his fans and the city that they were the most important thing in his life and his career, then just up and left in a gregarious way. If he had not cultivated this savior status he would be no different than any other player. But he did. For that reason the fans of Cleveland sports have every right to be enraged at his actions.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Passing of Legends

Most of you have likely heard of today's passing of longtime New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. The controversial Mr. Steinbrenner recently marked his 80th birthday although he had been in poor health for several years, and has rarely been seen in public in that time.

Back in the early 1970s, Steinbrenner lead a group of investors who purchased the badly-run Yankees from CBS. Yes, THAT CBS! At the press conference at which the deal was announced, George stated he would not be involved in the day-to-day operations of the ball club, but would rather concentrate on his principal business, shipbuilding. We know that his declaration, while likely meant at the time, soon proved to be a hollow one. He got involved in the down and dirty details of running the team, hiring and firing at will, and just as often re-hiring those fired just as quickly. The multiple hirings and firings of Billy Martin as manager were the prime example.

George eventually bought out most of his business partners in the Yankees, taking the title of General Partner as well as President and owner. After one of the few remaining "Limited Partners" sold his shares to Steinbrenner, the man wryly remarked, "There is nothing more limited than being a Limited Partner of George Steinbrenner."

His obsession with rebuilding the fortunes of the team went hand-in-hand with his fierce competitiveness and his desire to go first class with virtually everything. He wanted "Yankees" to be synonymous with First Class. In many ways he achieved that ambition, but often sullied that reputation with his personal failings, including being banned from baseball for two years as a result of being convicted of illegal campaign contributions to the campaign of Richard Nixon.

Steinbrenner raised the bar when free agency started, and opened his wallet to the superstar players. Some will say he bought World Series championships, but spending big bucks on players does not always mean they win all the time. He rekindled the glory of the Yankees, enough to where they once again became the biggest road draw of the season for most teams, and became the team everyone loves to hate as well.

His old-school-football-coach style did not always fit well when it came to running the team and making personnel decisions, but he did make enough good hires to put the foundation in place for a long and successful run at or near the top of the baseball world.

You will have noticed the title of today's post mentions "Legends", as in plural. The second Yankee Legend actually passed first, last week. Unless you are a Yankees fan, you likely have never heard of Bob Sheppard, the public address announcer for the Yankees from 1951-2007. As a p.a. announcer myself, he has filled a warm spot in the Yankees part of my heart for a very long time.

Bob Sheppard had a job teaching English at the college level as well as his job as the announcer for the Yankees, New York (football) Giants, New York Cosmos (soccer), and he did some college sports p.a. as well.

I was very young when I first heard Mr. Sheppard's distinctive style in the background of baseball games on television, and his speaking style has always stayed with me. Once heard, his dulcet tones are never to be forgotten. He once said every name deserved to be pronounced properly, and many people recall seeing him going over names in the pre-game hours, making certain he had it correct. If he had any doubt he would ask the player directly. Visiting players still say hearing him pronounce their names when they come to bat gives them chills every time. He was deliberate in his diction but not pompous. He had a simple style that was reflected in his delivery, the same delivery each time. He would intone, for instance, "Now batting. Number 7. Mickey Mantle. Number 7."

He said Mickey's was his favorite name to announce although he did favor the Latin players because of the flow he saw in their names. One writer said he gave equal prominence to the stars as well as the bench warmers when he announced their names.

I have tried to emulate Mr. Sheppard in one essence, asking for the names of soccer players who play where I do my announcing. Unfortunately, an occasional coach will get the name of his player wrong, and it usually results in a mother turning around and shouting up the correct pronunciation, for which I am grateful.

Current Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said he could not bear to hear another announcer say his name in Yankee Stadium, so he had it written into his contract that as long as he plays for the Yankees, a recording of Mr. Sheppard's "Number 2. Derek Jeter. Number 2." will play as long as he does.

Although illness prevented Mr. Sheppard from working the past several years, it should be noted that when he worked his last game, he was 96. He was 99 last week when he passed.

May we all have such a long and quality life as the venerable Mr. Sheppard.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Wouldn't that be our time, Mr. Hand?

Apparently I have been living with my head in the sand and had not heard about Prop 19 in the Land of Fruits and Nuts. This is another amazing proposal to be voted on by the population of Ca. Once again they take the lead. Prop 19 is a proposal to legalize mary-g-wanna for personal use. There is much at stake.

Those in favor claim decriminalizing the drug will lessen crime. The head of the NAACP in the state endorsed it claiming the black and Latino population suffers from a significantly higher arrest rate for possession than the rest of the population. That may be true but it is likely a cause of where police patrol and why. If the higher crime rates were in white neighborhoods I would assume their arrest rate would go up quickly. The drug knows no bounds. Her view maintains less black men would then be incarcerated. That may be true however being stoned in public is likely a criminal offense as well. To be fair there are members of the organization that are now calling for her to resign. Their concern is just another thing to corrupt their children.

There is likely a push for this legalization due to the overwhelming budget deficit the state now faces. Think how much money they can raise with a tax. I'm sure the drug cartels are against it. That in itself might be a reason to pass the law, though I'm sure they will not go out of business as Prop 19 only allows so much for personal use. Still, you won't be able to walk down to the convenience store for a pack of Marlboro 'extra sweet'. There would still be plenty of need for an illegal trade.

Years ago I heard the arguments both for and against. I now don't think it is much worse than alcohol. I do not believe it necessarily leads to harder drugs. It certainly can't be worse than tobacco and all the problems that legal drug has caused. The biggest difference between alcohol and cannabis is the only reason for 99% of the population to smoke mary-g is to get high. You can have a social drink and not get drunk. Intent in the big difference.

If I lived in the state I would likely abstain from voting on this issue. Let them legalize it if they choose. If so there should be harsh penalties if you are under the influence and commit a crime or cause a traffic accident, penalties much tougher than the norm. Why? If you kill someone behind the wheel of a car just because you wanted to get stoned you should never again see the light of day.

Smoke 'em if ya got 'em, stoners.