Category Archives: Business

“Promises, Promises” (wrote Bert Bacharach)

Musings and promises to myself:

  1. I do not (and will not) watch any television program with a title that begins with Real. Not Real Housewives of Dubuque, not Real Sanitation Workers of Santa Monica, etc. None. Zero. Zip.
  2. Likewise, I avoid any internet stories that claim that a celebrity “confirms what we knew all along.” If we knew it all along, why should we succumb to their click bait?
  3. Some of the stories on the Internet have lives of their own and refuse to die. One example is the story about the girl who passed herself off as a rich duchess. Or was it a countess? All I know is that whenever I see THAT SAME OLD PICTURE I shudder. It’s sounds like an addition to Chevy Chase’s old routine. “Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead AND the phony countess is still in the news!”
  4. And, unless it’s a story about geology, any use of the word rocks (as in Former supermodel rocks a bikini or Barney rocks a Speedo) it will be ignored.

Wallowing in the News

It seems like the Internet now focuses so much on negativity:

Cardiologists say avoid this food . . . .

Movie Star denies hiding millions in secret Swiss bank accounts . . . .

When did Obama become a Republican?

You get the drift. The other spots on the news websites are filled with rumors about celebrities–who’s dying, who’s cheating, who’s raising kittens–the whole nine yards.

At least I no longer have to sneak a peak at the tabloids in the supermarket.

Tear Them All Down–for Profit

Across the street from my house there used to be woods and open fields. The developers began clearcutting the trees and adding fill to the fields in order to build houses. This is an area subject to flooding; each tree they destroyed transpired 55,000 gallons of water each year and absorbed carbon that otherwise would contribute to global warming (whether you believe in it or not).

There was a small area that was still wooded–probably 50 trees or so–across from my house. As you can see that the trees were pulled up by the roots or pushed over by carbon belching, heavy equipment. I counted at least four machines. The dust blowing toward my house is just an added bonus  and will probably continue for months.

I couldn’t help but flash on The Two Towers, when Saruman commands that the orcs should pull all the trees down.

It’s taken us a while, but we’ve mastered the orcs’ technique.

 

Much Ado About Nothing – How We Describe Our Hometowns

Back in the stone age, when I was young, we described different parts of town with specific words. In northwest Ohio there was downtown, but no uptown. There was the East Side, the West End and South Toledo. North Toledo was described by the various neighborhoods–Polish, German, Lebanese, etc.

That was simple. In August, Mom would take me downtown to buy school clothes, which, by October, by the way, I’d managed to mangle.

Over time, downtown disappeared, replaced by shopping malls—which also meant that the local stores such as Tiedtke’s and Lamson’s also disappeared.

Oh, there was still a downtown, but it was the haunt of lawyers, bankers, and others who were in a different caste from my family. There was the main branch of the public library, but libraries don’t define an area.

Where I live now, there is a city center with the various city offices and courts, but except for the main branch of the library, that’s it. Unless there is a food truck event, there isn’t a restaurant or even a drive-through, fast-food, franchise place in the “downtown” area.

There are (more or less) seven cities in this area: Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach (in alphabetical order so as not to offend anyone). The area has had various monikers—Hampton Roads, The Historic Triangle,* Tidewater, Virginia Beach (it’s the tourist attraction, after all), but none of them have ever been adequate. We’re still working on it. However, if there are lakes, rivers, the Chesapeake Bay, beaches, and the Atlantic Ocean, there are more pressing issues than deciding on a metropolitan name.

We divide our area into the Peninsula, which includes Hampton and Newport News (along with Williamsburg, Croaker and Norge), the South Side, with the other cities, and various other areas like the Eastern Shore and the Outer Banks just over the line in North Carolina.

 

*Jamestown—the first permanent English settlement, Williamsburg—an early capital of Virginia and arguably a birthplace of American Independence, and Yorktown—the last major battle of the American Revolution, after which British General Lord Cornwallis’s troops surrendered to George Washington.

Commitment

Have you ever read the Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America? Most people don’t recognize that as the actual title of what we call the Declaration of Independence. Written in Philadelphia, approved on 2 July 1776, and published two days later on the fourth of July.

Those who signed the document risked much if they failed. If they were lucky, they would be hanged “until dead.” The practice of hanging, drawing, and quartering was the prescribed punishment for high treason. In this case, the condemned would be hanged, cut down while still (barely) alive, often disemboweled (again, while still alive), then beheaded and their body cut into pieces.

These founding fathers had to work hard to reach common ground since they had agreed that unanimous consent was required so as not to force brother against brother so many vehement arguments led to revisions that the authors vehemently opposed. The issue of slavery was particularly difficult, and striking a phrase prohibiting slavery did, in fact, lead to the war of brother against brother.

While most of the body of the declaration deals with the grievances against King George the third, I believe the most important part is at the end.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Who among us has that kind of commitment today?

 

WordPress Screws It Up, Yet Again

I had begun this post, stopped, worked with WordPress, and thought that the problem was resolved.

NOT SO FAST! PUT DOWN THE IDEA AND STEP AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD! KEEP YOUR OPIBIONS WHERE I CAN SEE THEM!

(Sigh)

When something works, why do geeks (and yes, I’m a geek) insist on changing things? When I was in medical imaging, there was a Cardiac CT Scanner that was cutting edge technology. The problem was that the engineers kept improving it. That should be great, right?

Not so much.

Each scanner was slightly different than every other scanner because of the improvements. That meant that the parts, diagnostic routines, manuals, etc. were all different.

Play piano? Imagine if every keyboard you sat down in front of was laid out different. An 8 note scale? Nope, we like eleven (I would have used the numerals, but the WordPress program, in its infinite wisdom thinks it should be 11. Why?).

I remember when Japanese manufactured cars went from a novelty to the norm and every mechanic had to have both SAE (English) size tools as well as metric. I can deal with that; if you tell me the rules, I can follow them.

So, bottom line is that when I have a few spare minutes around job, family, chores, repairs, and the miscellaneous hurricane or other disaster, I want to jot down my  ideas and share them.

WordPress, if I wish to be frustrated, I have children and a job; I don’t need you to add to it.

(Sigh)

Oh, and I’m still looking for the draft of the post I wanted to put here.

(Sigh)

Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is*

I’ve never been crazy about switching back and forth between standard time and daylight savings time. I realize that daylight savings time is worth billions of dollars to the outdoor grill and charcoal industries, the gulf courses, and–at least on Halloween, the candy manufacturers.

But why switch back and forth? Oh, I forgot, our Congress came up with that idea to save energy, even though it actually uses MORE energy and there’s a great loss of efficiency whenever we change.

Time is pretty arbitrary to begin with. If you set up a sun dial in your backyard, with precise orientation, the time at your location is very unlikely to match the time your clock/telephone/nuclear synched weather station, etc. We have time zones because the railroads needed it back in the 19th century–today I guess it’s for network television.

Take the Eastern Time Zone. It stretches from Qaanag (Thule), Greenland to Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. In Qaanag, sunrise today is at 0819 (8:19 AM) with sunset at 1912 (7:12 PM).

In Indianapolis–in the same time zone–sunrise is at 0758 (7:58 AM) and sunset at 1949 (7:49 PM). On the east coast of Virginia, sunrise is at 0719 (7:19 AM).

Since it is so arbitrary, anyway, why don’t we just stop switching back and forth. Personally, I’d prefer staying on daylight savings time–I like a little sunshine after I get off of work.

Emboldened by the News

Back in the day, one read the daily newspaper to find out about important events around the world, across the country, and in one’s local community. By the 1960’s, the source for news had shifted to the television, primarily because of its coverage of the war in Vietnam. However, newspaper readership was not eviscerated by television. Today, of course, if it’s on the Internet it has to be true and if it’s not on the Internet, well, it virtually doesn’t exist. If it’s on Twitter or Facebook (apparently depending on your age), you can take it to the bank.

Today, I learned the following from a well-known Internet source. (I almost called it “reputable” but I just couldn’t do it):

Katy Perry designs shoes.

Military “Meals Ready-to-Eat” known as MREs have a label which includes a silhouette that reminds people of President Trump.

Hong Kong is being overrun by wild boars.

American tourists do at least 20 things that the world hates.

Thanks to some tiny Pacific Ocean islands, The USA does not have the most obese children in the world.

I could go on, but armed with this knowledge, be assured that I’m much better prepared to face the world.

Superbowl Weekend

As anyone who has read my blog for very long knows that I am the antithesis of a sports fan, so all the hype about the Superbowl doesn’t excite me.

Instead, here are my (naturally) sarcastic comments:

1. Football is a truly American sport. The rest of the world plays a totally different kind of football, which we call soccer. Americans view OUR football to be infinitely superior to that other game.

2. In American football, the players are active for about 30 seconds, then everything stops. If there is a switch between offense and defense the entire team is traded out. If the football is going to be kicked, some of the team is traded out. In soccer, players play for 45 minutes, take a short break, then play for another 45 minutes. Individual players may be exchanged from time to time.

3. In American football, there are automatic timeouts after certain plays and each team has three timeouts per half that can be used at the team’s discretion. In soccer, the only timeouts occur after a serious injury.

4. In American football, players wear equipment roughly equivalent to the body armor used in Operation Desert Storm/Shield. In soccer, the players are protected by shin guards.

5. In spite of all the protective gear, American football players have a high incidence of traumatic brain injury.

6. Tickets for either type of football are expensive; Superbowl tickets are reported to average $4,000 each–and those are the cheap seats.

7. And, finally, as a good old American game, the Superbowl will be played in a stadium with the name of a good old American company–Mercedes Benz.

Twenty-First Century Customer Servcie*

In many retail stores I find several recurring themes–none of which are particularly appealing.

  1. Everything gets moved around. This is true at WalMart, the local grocery store chain, and who knows where else (I don’t shop too many other places).
  2. Once everything is moved (at least at the grocery stores), the prices are raised by about 10 percent.
  3. Of course, the idea of having employees available to answer questions, like, “Where are the clocks that used to be here?” died a long time ago.
  4. There are employees available, but they’re busy stocking shelves. Shelves are no longer stocked at night, but instead, at the peak of business activity, and giant carts loaded with merchandise are used to make passage through aisles absolutely impossible.
  5. It’s bad enough that shoppers are expected in 9 out of 10 cases to scan and bag their own purchases. However, the use of the plastic bags that defy all human efforts to open them (i.e., the front and the back stick together no matter what you do) manage to raise the bar on customer frustration to an all-time high.

Each of these practices are irritating, but since they seem so widespread, I have to ask. Did some retail guru (perhaps from Radio Shack, Sears, or J.C. Penney’s) promote these ideas? We may never know, but we are entitled to our suspicions.

 

* Yes, I know it’s misspelled. You see, it’s a sarcastic jab at poor customer service. Besides, I want to be the originator of a meme like covfefe or hamberder. So use Servcie every chance you get! Servcie! Servcie? servcie

Medical Tests

I spent many years in healthcare, starting as a radiologic technologist (or, using the pejorative, x-ray technician), moving into management and eventually becoming a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives. I maintained my clinical and management certifications throughout my extended recall to active duty–complete with continuing education requirements–until I accepted a position outside of healthcare. Then I dropped my healthcare credentials–after all, the annual memberships and continuing education requirements amounted to over $4,000 per year. With school age kids at home, that was a luxury that could not be maintained.

Nevertheless, I have maintained as active an interest in healthcare as Sherlock Holmes did for tobacco ashes. (If you don’t what I mean, read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books.)

So why do I even mention this?

First–So many things that were medically disastrous or fatal during my clinical days are now routinely managed if not cured. Halleluiah!

Second–There are so many new areas of medicine that address real issues that were written off before. Again, Halleluiah!

Recently, where I work, they shrunk the functional sized workspaces, with 7 foot high sound absorbing dividers to playpen size (48″ x 48″ x 48″) work areas with which offered almost no sound absorption.

Hey, what could go wrong? The salesman said it would be wonderful!

So, if you make one extremely stupid move, and it creates problems, the next step is to make an even more extremely stupid move. Since everybody can hear everything everyone says, instead of bringing the old cubicle materials out of the warehouse lets ———–

INSTALL NOISE GENERATORS!

The theory of noise generators is that by adding noise on top of noise, the existing noise will be less noticeable. (To me, this is like blasting a diesel horn to drown out traffic noise, but then I am not an expert in interior design.)

The salesman claim that it is not additive–huh? Add X deciBels on top of Y deciBels and you will end up with Y minus X deciBels? (Can I have whatever you are smoking?
Thanks, man! Got any munchies?)

A select few of us don’t hear the noise generators, but instead feel a pressure in the ears similar to a small plane climbing to altitude–accompanied by the feeling of the world was spinning around.

Ergo, we get to spend our time sequestered in areas without the NEW! IMPROVED! sound reduction.

BUT we get to go to physical therapy. This where I found out about a whole new specialty in Physical Therapy that deals with labyrinth issues (the part of the inner ear that impacts balance and such). (In my experience, no new medical specialty emerges without a demand; does that tell you something?)

I’m optimistic that the physical therapist will be able to help me. In the meantime, my free advice to anyone interested:

  1. Don’t accept everything sales people say as gospel.
  2. The scientific method demands that we challenge, prove or disprove, not blindly accept things as fact.

Just something to think about, but that’s what this blog is all about.

Uniquely American

papers

I haven’t been writing much lately–well, actually I have, but just not blog entries. I’m mainly working on the story / book / whatever that I mentioned in the past. It’s not quite 200 pages, but still needs a lot of work.

In the meantime, I thought I’d focus on a uniquely American practice that I personally find irritating. I try to support hardcopy publications, such as newspapers and magazines. However, I get very frustrated when I sit down, look at the front page of the local newspaper and see four to six articles, with every single one continued somewhere within the bowels of the newspaper.

Magazines are worse, though, because they don’t number all the pages, and when they do, the page numbers are tiny and use fonts in colors that barely stand out from the background. It’s like holding a conversation with someone who (Continued on Page 6)

Careful Editing

Editing is the inverse of writing. When writing, one attempts to put thoughts into words. Editing, though, tends to take away as many words as possible achieve other ends.

For example, editors today are scratching out any positive features of a thought. The Democrats are stupid, but then so are the Republicans, and don’t even get me started about the independents.

We can dispense with facts, figure, and insight while we focus on the latest “Entertainers Pat Themselves On the Back Event” and evaluate which female had the most skin exposed while wearing her formal gown. Then, of course, there’s the screaming headline–based on preliminary untested data–that coffee, wine, cheese, pomegranates are gong to kill you faster than a sniper’s .50 caliber high velocity bullet.

Did I say kill? I meant that it would let you live damn near forever–and regrow hair where you want it and eliminate it where you don’t.

And then–and this is incredible–whoever doesn’t like it will call it fake news!

 

My New Friend

 

scam

As I got older, my eyes began playing tricks on me. I believe I mentioned a long time ago that I looked at a sign in front of a motel and read, “Congratulations to our ghost of the week.” It actually said “guest,” of course. My eyes’ version is definitely funnier.

Like everyone else, I get an inordinate number of robocalls, and on my cell phone the screen displays, “Scam Likely.” I decided to blame my eyes and tell whoever it interrupted that the call is from my new friend “Stan Liekly.”

The scam-likely warning is better than nothing, but you would think that a nation in which every person under the age of thirty had a cellphone before they were potty trained could figure out how to stop these callers. Unfortunately, not.

I admit, knowing how many billions of dollars these con artists make, I’ve tried to figure out how I’d milk this cash cow. I could robocall millions of people and tell them that I’m an IRS agent holding a Nigerian Prince, and his bag full of money, hostage. Then I’d demand $10,000 in bit coin or I’ll force the Nigerian Prince to infect their computer and erase all their files.

On the other hand, it’s easier and more profitable just to work a legitimate job.

Beer?

fall-beer-stein

I’ve never been much of a beer drinker; the only time beer tastes good to me is after I’ve gotten grossly dehydrated. While the trend today is toward craft beers and microbreweries, for years, there were multiple big named breweries, each of which touted its brand name and slogan.

I grew up in Ohio and the local beer was Buckeye–“It’s on everybody’s lips!” because, we used to joke, it was impossible to swallow. Buckeye is long gone, but what about the big names?

Schlitz–“The beer that made Milwaukee famous” was purchased by Pabst brewing.

Stroh’s lacked a notable slogan, once owned Schlitz, but ended up as part of Pabst brewing.

Coors was so sought after in the east that if you tried to take some back home by air it would never make it past Chicago. Coors merged with Miller.

Olympia originally used artesian wells, so their motto was “It’s the water.” (Firesign Theatre did  a great parody.)  Olympia was the second most prized beer in the east. It is currently brewed by MillerCoors.

Pabst Blue Ribbon is known for it’s perceptive marketing. The story is that the advertising company sent people around to different bars. When they realized that the greeting from the bartender was not, “Hello,” but “What’ll you have?” that became their motto. Pabst is currently brewed by MillerCoors.

Budweiser, “The King of Beers” eventually became part of the Anheiser-Busch INBEV. (Click to see their family tree). Which did, will, might, own everybody. Or, maybe that’s MillerCoors. I can’t keep track.

I probably have missed a few of the mergers, megamergers, divestitures, etc., but you get the idea.

I have this perception, that choosing a big name beer is like the high tech soda machines at fast food restaurants. You can get almost any drink or any combination from one tap just by pressing the right buttons.

Writing Is Sometimes Work

Writing can be like a partial conversation among friends. Writing can be therapeutic by admitting to things that concern or anger you. Writing can be artistic as you commune with the muse whose job it is to inspire you.

However, writing can also be work.

Lately, I haven’t written much because inspiration has been difficult. As an idealist who likes to believe that by pulling together we can accomplish anything, today’s “I’m right and you’re wrong” attitude is a definite buzzkill.

What’s wrong with “My opinion and your opinion are mutually exclusive and universally exhaustive, but go ahead and tell me about your opinion anyway,”? Nothing, but instead of conversing, we prefer to find an internet site, radio station, organization, or whatever that reinforces our own opinion. It’s easier than critcally thinking.

In 1998, Andrew Wakefield published a flawed–if not faked–study that linked autism to childhood vaccinations. The study was discredited and the former Dr. Wakefield was stripped of his medical license. However, some believed–and continue to believe Wakefield’s tripe.

Right now, in Asheville, North Carolina, 36 children are suffering from chickenpox. While chickenpox may not be fatal–although in some cases it has, it hopefully won’t be for any of these children. Meanwhile, their parents will most likely continue to limit themselves to associating with others who agree with their concerns about vaccinations.

Oh, Woe!

I once had a cat, and when we moved from Louisiana to Florida, he got out of his travel carrier, got under my seat, and cried for hours, “Oh woe! Oh woe!”

That’s how I feel about not blogging much lately.

However:

Real excuses–I got in an auto accident. No big deal, except that when 3 of your cervical vertebrae (neck bones) are bolted together, the other four have to flex a lot more (Ouch).

I’m working on my story.

Things are crazy at work (but aren’t they always?).

Fake excuses:

It’s getting cold, the shift from daylight savings time to standard time is here, and [your turn to fill in the blank].

I’ve rewritten Chapter Two of my sorry a dozen times, at least. I may be done, but paraphrasing George Lucas, Leonardo Da Vinci, etc. “A story is never finished, only abandoned,”

So–and this is your part–if I share my story while it is in development, and it changes, you have t accept that.

Deal?

Deal!

Thank you.

P.S. If I were to publish this after WordPress’s spell checker finished wiht it you would not be happy campers. Too bad they wanted their own (patent pending), cumbersome, crappy, system. I hope they never ACTUALLY PAID ANYONE TO SCREW UP A PERFECTLY GOOD BLOG.WEB SYSTEM! But, hey, that’s juet me.

License Agreements

When we download software (since many computers don’t have optical drives anymore) the first thing we see is the licensing agreement, which is very long and complicated. Here’s what all that legalese boils down to:

  1. You are obliged to send us money.
  2. We have the right to keep it.
  3. We are not responsible for the software failing to work, containing malware.
  4. In fact, we are not responsible for anything.
  5. We have the right to sell your personal information to anyone.
  6. We have the right to rewrite the software so you have to buy it again.
  7. We have the right to limit the time you can use the software.
  8. If there is a dispute, you will not sue; the dispute will be settled by arbitration.
  9. We reserve the right to pick someone we like and who likes us to act as arbitrator.
  10. When you lose (and you will), you will be responsible for paying any and all expenses for said arbitration.
  11. We paid one or more lawyers a lot of money to write this agreement, so we have included that cost in the price for this product.

How much money does the software industry spend each year on lawyers? Probably more than they do on software engineers–but tha’s just a guess.

Feel free to add “whereas,” “heretofore,” “hereinafter,” etc., as many times as you like.

Verizon

If you’ve ever had a problem with a large corporation, you may appreciate this actual letter

Hans Vestberg, Chief Executive Officer
Verizon
140 West Street
New York, NY 10007

I have been a Verizon FiOS customer for over ten years. Initially, it was a reliable service, and I chose Verizon for television cable, internet, and telephone. Unfortunately, Verizon’s service has not gone downhill, but rather over a cliff.

First, Verizon migrated its e-mail to AOL. If I wish to remotely access my email through AOL [advertisement spam] I have [advertisement spam] to wade through [advertisement spam] a series of [advertisement spam] screens. I normally receive my email through Microsoft Outlook, so, most of the time it was not an issue. However, [advertisement spam] at times [advertisement spam] I have to go [advertisement spam] through the AOL [advertisement spam] website.

Next, Verizon shifted email accounts to the Yahoo domain without informing its customers. I have two Verizon accounts that I access through Outlook; one migrated successfully to Yahoo while the other did not.

It is impossible to access Verizon customer service. There are no telephone numbers on the web page; clicking on “Contact Us” takes the customer to automated chat, customer forums, or a bounce back to the previous page. The Customer Forum is especially Verizonesque—it shifts the responsibility to customers to fix Verizon’s problems; the most recent forum posting about email is dated 22 June 2014.

I contacted [advertisement spam] AOL [advertisement spam] only to be told, albeit politely, that this was a technical problem and technical service required a subscription of $14.99 per month. They gave me one month free, but required a credit card, to automatically renew unless I canceled. I grudgingly provided my card information.

I was transferred to technical support (~20-minute wait time) and after two hours, absolutely nothing was accomplished.

So, I’m left with the same problem I had before. Incidentally, there are a number of sites on the Internet, easily Googled, with other customers facing the exact same Verizon/AOL/Yahoo e-mail problem.

Sears

So, Sears is in big trouble. That’s a shocker.

When I was a child, there were various stores that were ubiquitous in my part of the world.

F.W. Woolworth’s, founded in 1878, was a so-called “Five and Dime,” which was also noted for its lunch counters. In 1962, management decided that it needed to be a superstore, which it named “Woolco.”  It died in 1983.

S.S. Kresge was another five and dime; it was founded in 1899, and, also in 1962, its management decided that it too needed to become a big-box superstore, which operated under the name of K-Mart. K-Mart filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2002. When it emerged from bankruptcy, its business geniuses decided that it should purchase another retailer, Sears, in 2004.

Sears & Roebuck was founded in 1892 and after malls became popular in the 1960s, it was often one of the “anchor stores.” Sears had a reputation for not reinvesting in its core business but focusing, instead on shareholder dividends and purchasing or starting other businesses, such as Allstate Insurance, Dean Witter Financial, Coldwell Banker Real Estate, creating the Discover Card, etc.

Today, Sears is showing dismal performance, which it blames on its requirement to pay for the pensions that its retirees earned. My mother worked for K-Mart and with the bankruptcy and merger, she lost her pension, so we’re not talking about every Sears/K-Mart employee, only some.

Incidentally, most of us who get a paycheck have money deducted each payday for Medicare, Social Security, and possibly some type of retirement plan and/or other savings. Shouldn’t Sears have done something similar and invested money over time so that they wouldn’t have to pay pensions out of their operating budget today? However, their priority was shareholder dividends and purchasing other companies. They apparently were neither interested in their future, nor their people.

COincidentally, today retail is shifting to remote purchases that are then delivered to the consumer, usually by US Mail. For many years, Sears was known for its mail order catalog–during my childhood, it wasn’t Christmas without the Sears catalog and its extensive toy section.

By today’s standards the mail order catalog process seems a little slower with sending in an order by mail, but it was the same basic concept. In other words, it’s just possible that if greed were not so huge a factor, Sears could have been Amazon rather than on the verge of collapse.