Friday, January 28, 2011

We lost the election, now do as we say!

We recently observed the federal holiday commemorating the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights crusader who is very well known for saying he longed for the day when a man is judged for the content of his character, not for the color of his skin.

This lesson is apparently lost on some people, namely the members of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus, who are demanding the newly-installed governor fire some of the 23 cabinet members he has appointed, and replace them with people who are black, because, you see, the governor's cabinet so far is all white. A spokeswoman for the caucus complained that since blacks are 12.1% of the state's population, they must make up 12.1% of the cabinet.

A quick hit on the calculator reveals that 12.1% of 25 (total cabinet positions) equals 3.03.

I do not know if the black legislators want that rounded up or down, or if they will accept a person of mixed race with enough "black blood" to get to that .03 of a person.

They also do not care about other minorities, because they have not demanded Hispanics, Asians, American Indians and other minorities be proportionally represented in the governor's cabinet as well. They are even threatening to file lawsuits in federal court and complain to various civil rights organizations for relief.

An aide to the governor said that two blacks had been offered positions in the cabinet, but had declined the offers.

If this group is truly serious about proportional representation, then we must take it to its logical conclusion: proportional representation at every level of state government. We can begin with the Hispanic/Latino Affairs Commission and the Commission on Minority Health, both of which are heavily staffed by minorities, and deal exclusively with "minority" issues.

In my 33 years as a state employee, it is quite apparent that far more than 12.1% of state employees are black, so, I presume the legislators will have no problem firing the "excess" number of blacks (and other minorities?) so we can then bring the state employee population back into proportional representation levels.

I will not hold my breath until that happens.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

...has left the building

Today was a day of sadness filled with joy. Today we lay to rest the father of My Beloved. Today was a chance to again visit My Cathedral; a chance to say hello to my parents.

My Beloved's father was a good man. He was a man of honor, a man of discipline, a man who lived in a world now past. Although we shared a family thread we seemed to have little else in common. That is not to say we had little to share, just that we were very different. My father-in-law was a man given to groups, groups of stature and significance. That was were his heart lay for many years. He was a member of the Highway Patrol Auxiliary and a commander of the American Legion. He loved these institutions and helped to lead others through them. It was where he earned his distinction. He felt a bond and brotherhood with the men he gathered with and they turned out to salute him on his final day.

I have never been one to join anything. Although I have a strong connection with family and my faith, I have never belonged to a group. Perhaps it is the way of an older generation that bonded together through the difficult times of the world war and the striving to retrieve a state of normalcy afterward. In that sense, they fought and leaned on each other and needed that strength again in civilian life. Others are pulled to groups through their children, through schools and sports and other activities. North of 50 has ties of similar nature. I have none.

Under normal circumstances I rarely think about this, however on a day like today it lends a permanence to the proceedings, a final finale, a punctuation to remember. I would not call myself a loner as I am surrounded by streams of people on a daily basis. I do not shun social contact but have never felt the urge or need to single out a group to join. Perhaps it is a calling those who join others share. I would hope no one feels they need to join a group to feel important or wanted but because they share something in common. Although it cost him in some ways, it was his way.

And now he joins the biggest group of all. May the angels bring you to glory and everlasting rest.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Life's improvements seldom are

We as a society seem to have become a nation of over-doers. Now, on the surface there is nothing wrong with wanting to make something bigger and better, faster and stronger. That is how we have become a world leader in many fields. It is one of the things that makes America great.

But not everything needs to be improved or added to. Does changing something necessarily improve it? If you add a pinch of salt to a soup, it enhances the flavor. Does that mean adding several more shakes or a half pound improve it? Likely it just makes it saltier and covers up the taste. Does changing from 'salt' to 'sea salt' improve it? Again, likely it is just a marketing ploy. I have often found that salads suffer same fate as I am just a guilty of drowning my lettuce with too much Italian as the next guy.

There is nothing wrong with improving design. Computers need to grow and have become more friendly over the years. Really, who would want to go back and use their computer from 1997? Remember the days of your computer locking up nearly every hour? Who would want to return to that? That is development. However, do we really need a 'super sticky' post-it note? What was wrong with the non-super sticky? Did you not use enough of the sticky stuff in the first place? Does that mean what you sold us before was old and crappy? (I believe George Carlin had a bit about that years ago). What happens then is always the same, the price of the item goes up and the quantity goes down.

And bigger isn't always better. What good is a car that goes 130 mph when the speed limit is 70? How many times have you taken that behemoth four wheel drive off road anyway? Do I really need a weed-trimmer that will run for seven hours on a single charge when I have a quarter-acre suburban lot? Many of us over-buy for what we actually need. Perhaps that is due to poor quality products so we buy a better model, which means a higher price, so it won't break down as fast. I know so many who have a 'professional model' tool who can't nail two boards together without help. What, the Black and Decker drill that you need twice a year isn't good enough? That's a classic over-buy.

Most items we encounter in our mundane, everyday life probably seldom need improving. I don't need a new version of the same stapler I have used for years. Neither do I need specialty camel hair paint brushes because the boars hair brushes I have been using for years are just fine, I guess unless we are running out of boars.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

An harmonic convergence?

The month of January, by virtue of being the first month on the calendar, obviously marks a time of new beginnings, what with new year's resolutions and assorted whatnot.

This year, January brings us a combination of commemorative dates that are truly mind-boggling.

To begin with, Graybeard achieves a milestone that has thus far eluded the rest of us: he turns 60(!) Although obviously the oldest of us, he now officially assumes the mantle of Graybeard the Elder, just to make him seem that much older. He would likely see the humor in this, except that, confirmed Luddite that he is, he will not find his way to this site. More's the pity.

Next up (same day actually) Baby Sis and Mr Krinkles celebrate the 20th anniversary of the conjoining of their minds, bodies, and souls, otherwise known as their wedding anniversary. Miracle Baby, Bigfoot, MegaByte, and Princess Drama Queen are a fine testament to the love they bear for each other.

Then, Wonderful Daughter will turn 30, which is something that I cannot fathom, as I am only 29 (in spirit, anyway). It promises to be a time of great expectations, what with two equally wonderful children beginning to explore the world and the tentative spreading of their downy feathery wings, accompanied by a truly fine man, Eric the Tall, who is the finest son-in-law a Father can wish to have marry his daughter.

To cap it all of, the month goes out on a high note, as Handsome Son and his delightful bride Miss Texas celebrate the first anniversary of their commingling of lives as well, in weather that is not too different than what we experienced last year in the tropical paradise of central Texas, save for the snow surrently falling.

I will always remember standing on a wind-chilled promontory as the sun was setting while they proclaimed their eternal fealty to one another, before dashing off to a car that could not be warmed up fast enough! Of such are memories made.

Now, if only Robert T and Mrs Pool had married in a different year, they would be a first of February part of this karmic destiny of dates. Alas, they are celebrating anniversary number 19, which, although a fine number in its own right, just does not fit quite as nicely, but we still wish them continued happiness and wedded bliss as well.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It's all in the details

Everyone has their peculiarities, myself included. We all have a certain way we want things done. It is to some extent a measure of our personalities. As a manager one of my tasks is to get everyone on the same page. In this case, too many cooks does spoil the soup. But, as is often the case some details are extraneous.

In some professions only a certain tool will work. It's best to use the correct tool for the job. A number two phillips head will work for the majority of phillips screws but sometimes you need a number one. Why? It's the proper tool so you don't strip out the head. (Somehow this is starting to sound like bathroom jokes). Many times I don't have a large list for gifts as I am fairly finicky on a certain number of things. However, my finicky list is short as I have always been able to 'MacGyver' my way through things. Most times I can settle for something just because it's not that big of a deal.

Then there was this woman. I happened across her in my store and offered assistance. She smiled slightly and began asking me about paperclips. Ok...we have this size which is a standard and the jumbo clips. "What size is this?" "It's a number one." "Do you have a number two?"
"No, we have a number one and jumbo." "How big is this?" (I pointed to a clear package). "Do you have a sample?" "Umm, no." "What color is this?" "It's silver." "What color silver?" (Steam ready to come out of my ears.) "Silver." She paused. "Is it shiny or dull." "I don't know. I can open the package for you." "That's OK, I'll just keep looking."

At some point in life many people just make it too hard on themselves and are their own worst enemy. I find it hard to believe this woman's choice of paperclips would have any relevance in what happens either in her office or her home. I understand people like the same 'thing' every time because that is what they are used to. But in most cases you have raised your level of stress and those around you for something that is totally meaningless.

Life is too short to worry about minute details that have no leverage in the real world. It's a paperclip lady, move on.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Know when to fold 'em

It is now officially over. College football has come to a close for another year and the Auburn Tigers are the national champs. Of the SEC schools they are one I have pulled for over the years being in the shadow of the 'Bear'. Congratulations.

Our family has carried on a long-standing tradition started by Beloved Father. Years ago we all pitched in a dollar and picked the bowl games. Back then there were less but the rules still hold, best record wins. Over the years the bowl count has expanded and the number of people throwing in has also increased. This year we had forty-seven participants all under the watchful eye of North of 50 who runs the whole show. It's in his genes as Grandma Bertha used to run numbers back in the day and Uncle Pat was known as the famed west side gambler. He comes by it naturally.

The winner this year was a darling of a young lady who unfortunately reveers the Gators. She won (by my count, official results not in) with a record of 24-11. Very good prognosticating if you ask me, even for a girl...

There were nine entries with losing records. One special entry yearly is the Magic Quarter where The Bug and wife flips a quarter to determine the winner. This year the Magic Quarter was 20-15. How does that make everyone feel? Losing to a quarter, banished from next years pool. Also this year we bid a fond farewell as Lizzie the Lizard passed on to the eternal garden. She was a pet of The Bug. He would place the names of the teams in front of her and she would pick based on the paper she ate. Believe it or not, she rarely was below 500. She will be missed. N of 50 barely broke a 500 percentage being 18-17 while yours truly finished a respectable 23-12 and tied with five others for second. My Beloved lost to the quarter but beat many others.

The next tourney up is the NCAA basketball championships with everyone picking their final four. Now that January is upon us it's time to start paying attention. Gotta protect my dollar entry fee.

War Eagle!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Return of the Red-Headed Stepchild

For as long as I have been employed at my current office (over 33 years), the department I have spent almost the entire time working in has been considered the red-headed stepchild of the office. We have never been the "sexy" area, like Investments or Trust, just little old Tax Collection which later upgraded its name to Revenue Management.

We did the grunt work, processing millions of tax forms and checks until about 10 years ago when most of our department's jobs were shipped off to Taxation, along with the people.

Nowadays the bulk of our work is processing electronic payments and the documents that go with them.

This morning, Day One for the new administration, one of the newbies (who later turned out to be the lead counsel) brought in a group of suits as part of a tour. They stepped into our department, and I quote: "This is Revenue Management. None of you will be assigned here, so we will not need to spend any time back here. If you want to know more than you really want to know about it, ask Jennifer."

Un-as they say-quote.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

An interesting e-mail came early as well. The deputy dawg announced that for the time being all previously in-place office policies would be continued for now, except all employees "will no longer be able to accept meals, gifts, or gratuity of any kind until a new ethics policy is announced."

I never knew we were permitted to accept any of the sort; sounds like an ethics violation to me, at least that is what they tell us every year in our ethics "training". I am a bit miffed that I never got any of these meals, gifts, or gratuities that apparently were so prevalent.

I wonder if I can claim I should be grandfathered in on those? Maybe there are some leftovers sitting around, and I am a grandfather after all!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Second time around

Looks like a busy day on the 'links'.

Recently a homeless man in Columbus was snatched from his homeless perch and brought back into society. He was recorded on 'tape' and has become a viral hit. It has changed his life. Up until then he has battled drugs and alcohol and who knows what else. At one time he was employed in the radio industry.

It is difficult to imagine the twists and turns ones life takes. There is no way to see into the future. If that were possible, could we avoid the pitfalls that await us? Would we make the same mistakes, make the same good choices? What he has been given is a second chance to do it all over again, a second chance in life. But what will he choose?

It is easy to second-guess sitting from afar and say how could he make wrong choices again. If that choice was made once, is it in his nature to battle the same demons that brought him down the first time? Hopefully the answer is no but there is no guarantee. It is a feel-good story to see one have this second chance. American's love the underdog and will continually root for them. But what happens if they fail a second time?

I'm glad this man has a chance to erase the demons that brought him down. However, I feel for those who have worked hard and struggled to do things the right way, never falling down, never succumbing to just getting by yet never succeeding fully. I count myself in that rank and most of those I know. We strive to do the right thing the right way. We succeed to an extent; our lives are generally comfortable yet there is something that eludes us. But for us (I hope) the temptations never bring us down.

Here's hoping the next person discovered fought to do it the right way and is rewarded for those efforts.

Pretty in Pink

On Friday, for the first time, Mr. Conservative wore a pink dress shirt to work. It caused quite a stir, fashion wise, as I received a number of comments (most of them favorable) on my choice of color.

On grammatical level, I could have said "for the first time ever" or "for the first time in my life" in the paragraph above, but those are redundancies. "First" means just that, I never did it prior to that time, while "first time in my life" is silly. I mean, "first time in Billy Bob's life"? It could be true, about Billy Bob, but then I do not actually know a person with that moniker.

I must credit my wonderful son-in-law, Eric the Tall, with unconsciously prodding me to don(!) a pink shirt. I had seen him wear one on several occasions, and decided to give it a shot. Wonderful Daughter tells me she was very much against her husband wearing pink, but now admits she likes it on him.

It definitely looks better on me than some of my previous sartorial exhibitions, ones that no one told me were hideous until the future Mrs. North of 50 deigned to do so in our dating years.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Somewhere Down The Road

I work for an elected state government office. Yesterday was the last day for most of the 58 people who were not retained by the incoming administration. Almost all of these appointees were not kept because the office is changing political parties as well. In my 33 years, it was ever thus.

The difference this time is how far down into the ranks of the exempt/unclassified the purge went. The usual procedure is to replace the directors and their assistants, along with those who voluntarily leave because of the change in parties. That would entail a change of two dozen or so at the most. It would appear the newbies have a different idea/agenda regarding policy and personnel matters.

There were a slew of "farewell and thank you" e-mails sent to the Everyone Distribution Group yesterday; some of them were from people I had actually met!

One of the (very) few benefits about being a (forced) member of a union is that we are not subject to the culling of the herd that occurs when a new person takes over. For about half of my tenure that was not the case; we were subject to dismissal at, literally, the boss' whim. It was something I saw happen a few times.

Nowadays, if they want to get rid of us union scum they really have to work at it!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Almost-Famous Amos

Sometimes we can be so gullible as a consumer base. Advertising coaxes us, begs us and prods us. Some products are as they claim, but in my view the majority pale in comparison to their advertising. Take the word 'famous'. How many products use that word in their advertising, use it in their slogan and again on the packaging? Really? How many have you actually heard of.

My Beloved and I visited our wonderful grocery store the other week. As we toured I passed a display of 'famous flour'. Famous flour, I thought. Never heard of it. As we proceeded I counted fourteen products that used the word famous (and we were 1/3rd the way through the store when I started. Are they really famous? If so how come I had never heard of any of them. One claimed to be 'America's favorite flour' for bread.

If I walked down the street with a list of products and stopped twenty people I'd bet less than five percent of those items would have any recognition. The only one I would even remotely speculate a random person would know is the cookie company Famous Amos. I'm sure some of these may be regionally famous but even that should have a limit. How many pizza companies from just New York claim to be a famous pizzeria? It seems like they all do. Every pizzeria from NY on the food channel seems to be famous. The only food product I know of from NY that could be called famous is Nathan's Hot Dogs.

I would propose the following: any company wishing to use the term famous for their products must call my mother-in-law, the Gnome, to ask permission. She would then call all her friends, who have about four hundred years of life experience. Should any three have heard of the company or its products they may then use the moniker. Any failed attempt shall render them impotent and void of famous. They may apply again after a period of ten years.

We'll take about 'America's favorite' tomorrow. They may have to call my uncle.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

O Christmas Tree

O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum, thy leaves are so dry now.

Today we had to take down the tree, as it was getting quite dry and dropping needles by the ton. It had been drinking until a day or so ago, but was not brittle, just dry and shedding.

I would much rather take the tree down after January 6, but, that's the way the needle drops, I guess.

At least the vacuum will smell great for several months!