Friday, December 31, 2010

Auld Lang Syne

When I was a kid, my parents always let me stay up to celebrate the New Year.  We would eat snacks and watch TV and at the stroke of midnight we would go out on the front porch and bang on Mom's pans with a spoon, blow on noise makers and make a general ruckus to wish the World a Happy New Year.

Afterward we all returned inside and inevitably hear strains of Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, the band with the really annoying saxaphone section, playing Auld Lang Syne.

I did not have a clue as to what an Auld Lang Syne was or what it meant. In fact I envisioned auld lang syne as the old sign hanging over Lang’s Pet Store in downtown Cincinnati.

Old Lang's Sign
At the time I really did not care. But as you get older you get curious about these sort of things. Of course this may have been something I should have learned in school had I had been paying attention.

So I have learned several things about this auld Scottish song, like the word auld is auld Scottish for old.

 In fact some folks sing, “Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?”

I always thought it was written by Robert Burns, the famous Scottish poet. Although he had something to do with it, he was not the author.

Robert "Bobs-yer-uncle" Burns
Burns had collected old folk tales and poems.  He states he got this song from an old (or auld) man.  He wrote it down and sent it to the Scots Musical Museum.  The tune became very popular and a tradition was started that it be sung to mark the end of the new year.

The phrase auld lang syne, translates to old long since or old times past.

Essentially it asks, should those we have known be forgotten and never thought of again?  We will remember them, drink a toast to them for sake of old times past.

While the first verse is for those we remember, the seldom sung second verse is for those who are in our life right now.

 "And there's a hand my trusty friend and give a hand of thine,  we'll take a right goodwill draught for auld lang syne."

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Cheer, Obnoxious Sweaters and Candy Cane Shivs

At Battlefield High School in Haymarket Virginia a group of boys with a sense of humor decided to call themselves the Christmas Sweater Club.  They collected the most obnoxious Christmas sweaters they could find to wear to school.  They also sang Christmas songs.  Ten of these boys are now in big trouble.

They are charged by school officials with maliciously attempt to main students with intent to injure. These boys say they were just tossing small two-inch candy canes to fellow students as they entered school. The ones in plastic wrap that are so small they often break apart.

Administrators stated, "The candy canes are weapons because you can sharpen them with your mouth and stab people with them."

The boys were all being punished with detention and at least two hours of cleaning. Their disciplinary notices say nothing about malicious wounding but about littering and creating a disturbance.

One of the perps stated the candy cane tossing occurred at 7 in the morning, before school even starts and he didn't know what we were disrupting.  The boys admitted to littering since some of the students may have dropped their candy canes or wrappers on the floor.

The parents of the boys believe the school has gone too far and believe this may have something to do with spreading Christmas cheer, which might have gone over if it was Holiday cheer instead.  The school administration, E. Scrooge, commented that suicide rates are up at Christmas. Not everyone wants Christmas cheer and they should keep it to themselves. Bah Humbug!


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Staples Office Supplies - I Will Not Shop There Again

My wife wanted a new computer printer for Christmas. We purchased it on December 1st or 2nd at the Staples store were we usually do business. She insisted on using it early since she wanted to print out some things she was making for Christmas presents.

It sat in its box until I hooked it up this Saturday, December 11th. The set up was eventless, until I fed paper in it and pressed the print test function. Nothing happened. On the second attempt an error message came up on the computer.

The direction booklet was not very informative. The only help instructions were to unplug the printer and restart it, check the cables and remove the program and re-install the program. I did all of these.

Nothing made it work. The booklet did not have a help desk number. No doubt this was intentional since companies want to solve problems through internet solutions, which cost them much less.

I was able to find the Hewlett Packard help phone number on the internet and called. A phone representative named Hercules answered and spoke with me for almost an hour. Much of the time was spent being placed on hold while Hercules waited for instructions. After returning and waiting, he finally decided the caddy that held the ink cartridges was not working. The solution was for him to send me a new caddy and new ink cartridges.

I received the package on December 15tth; I cleaned all the appropriate contacts and installed the new caddy and ink cartridges. It still did not work. The same error message number was on the printer screen.

I called HP again. The solution was that my wife’s printer was broken. (Heck I knew that all along). They will mail me a new printer and I must return the old one. But I will not get the printer until around December 23rd.

My wife was not at all happy and asked why we cannot just return the printer to Staples. I said, “Well let’s get in the car and go asked them.” So off to Staples we went.

We asked to speak with the manager. She had just gotten off the phone and stated that her ear was still ringing from the tongue lashing and screaming from her caller. I can relate, so I resolved to remain level-headed and reasonable. My wife and I explained the situation to her. Now this is where things went downhill.

We were asked if we purchased a $30 warranty. We did not. We are trusting Staples to sell quality merchandise which is in good working order. The manager looked exasperated and wiped her hand down her face.

She then explained that Staples only rents space to dealers like HP, Lexmark, Dell and other manufacturers. They are paid around $50 a month in rental fees. When Staples sells a product, it is acting as an intermediary for the company, so the product is under the manufacturers warranty only.

Of course that would change should we buy a Staples warranty.

She went on to explain that Staples only receives a small portion on each sale. “Maybe, say $50 on a $150 purchase. Once you purchase a product and it is defective, we need to return it within 14 days. If it is over 14 days, Staples will not be responsible."

I explained it may be over 14 days and explained what HP was going to do, but that we had some information that needed to be printed as soon as possible. What could Staples do for us?

The manager again wiped her face and gave us that look and said, “Well, if you bring it in tomorrow, I guess I could replace it with a machine of equal or lesser value, but you would have to purchase a warranty on the new product. However Staples would take a 65% loss."

I had already looked at the printers. There was a similar machine, but it was not the same model. I asked about that and she stated it would be a business day if it had to be special ordered.

She then ignored us and went about her business of closing out her cash register without saying, “I’m sorry for your problem or Thank you for choosing Staples.”

After speaking with the manager I had some thoughts.

First of all, as someone who worked for years in retail, I am aware that many companies have to pay for shelf space for their products in major retailers. So Staples is getting extra cash.

If Staples is making $50 on a $150 sale, that is 33% profit. That ain’t bad at all.

If I return my broken product, they will lose 65%. Well they wouldn’t if they did not sell defective merchandise. That is not my problem. Don’t tell me how this affects you. Tell me what you can do to help me.

We intended to buy some ink for our old printer. But my wife and I were just glad to get out of that store. We have bought several printers, countless ink cartridges, printer paper, clear page holders and other supplies from Staples through the years.

Although the manager clenched her teeth and offered to help, she acted like she was doing us a big favor.  She also emphasized her store would face punitive loss of 65% off the stores profit margin if I brought the printer back. And if I returned the defective printer, I would be forced to purchase a $30 Staples warranty for the replacement printer.(Doesn't the warranty fee sort of offset the loss?)

Staples, you have lost my business. There are too many other retail outlets that sell the same merchandise that will not treat me like I am the problem.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ten Business Practices

1.Hold a lot of management meetings and let those on the bottom tier know. 
  • This strategy will keep employees aprehensive and guessing what management is discussing about their careers.
  • Solution - There is none.

2. Change strategies and goals every 6 months.
  • This strategy shows the company's five year plan isn't working too well or a new leader has ascended up the ranks and is doing the domimate male/female roar.
  • Solution - Remember your place as a worker bee.

3. Group Meetings - Divide And Conquer 
  • In the past the entire team, group or department would come to meetings for new information from management.  Many companies have now realized that by dividing the group into several smaller groups for meetings is a good way to rattle the cage. 
  • This strategy seems to be a tool for management to get unsolicited feedback from employees, which they can compare between the small groups of associates by determining who whines the most.  Much of the information comes from eavesdropping on employee conversations. See Favorites 
Solution - Zip it!

4. Why do Women Bosses Usually Attempt to Grow a Pair? 
  • In my 37 years of work, I have encountered only one woman manager that did not try to emulate being a man by over compensating her management style with aggressive behavior.  It has been my experience that women bosses are tougher to work for than male bosses. 
  • The feedback most women bosses offer is usually negative. They are quick to judge. Some women bosses are quick tempered, which causes you to walk on tender-hooks.  
  • Conversely most of the men I have worked for have offered positive comments and are usually easy going.  Employee reports from male bosses generally offer positive comments, whereas a woman boss seems to be critical of every little thing.  Maybe it's because women are not used to those hangie-down things knocking around between their thighs.
  • Solution #1 - Learn to say "Yes ma'am, whatever you say ma'am."
  • Solution  #2 - Take testosterone injections.
5. The importance of Excel and Power Point. 
  • I don't know what we did before Excel.  We had to use manually drawn graphs, hand drawn by a secretary with a ruler and some magic markers. (This was before sharpie  abr: BS)
  • I took a couple of Excel courses a few years ago in which I was told that Japanese businessmen just love the Excel charts. It does easily make instant charts just by plugging in some number.  If the Japanese love it, I suppose we all gotta' love it.  
  • Power Point has taken over the job of overhead projectors. No longer do you have to use a totally uncool clear cell overlay written in black type (or handwritten with a magic marker).  Technology has replaced the antiquated clear overlay with wonderful computer produced color panels that can be projected onto a screen using a really expensive projector. Plus Power Point allows the production to be emailed to employees or to clients.  Additionally the Power Point cells can make swell little booklets.  The nifty little icons, characters, cartoons and what-not sure beat out the old school stuff.
  • Solution - Embrace Excel and Power Point

6. Finding Faults 
  •  No matter how perfect you are.  No matter how many accounts you pull in.  No matter if you sales are off the charts, it is your bosses bound duty to find fault with you and put it in your quarterly report. In turn her boss or his boss will find fault with them and their bosses vice president will find fault with them.  If you look in their job description it will say in underscored letters "Find Faults"
  • Solution - Learn to live with it.

7. Favorites 
  • Bosses seem to choose their favorite employee.  Most of the people who are favorites where teachers pets in grade school or the nasty girl or guy that tattled on you.  They were the back stabbing friend in high school that stole your best guy or best girl. They ratted you out for smoking in the boys room.  Their role model is Eddie Haskell.  They are buddies with your boss. Remember they are still the nasty girl/guy that tattles on you.
  • Solution - Zip it good! 

8. Youth Reigns Supreme
  •  As someone who is on the fast track to old age, I see it is the young that get the promotions and the perks.  It's not that the old grey mare just ain't what she used to be, it is prejudice.
  • Solution - If you are older than 55 find an attorney

9. Thin is In
  • God help you if you are overweight.  Your peers and management are watching your calorie intake in the cafeteria.  If you don't work out or play golf you ain't worth monkey poo. 
  • Solution - Switch to diet cola and go cold turkey on the potato chips.

10. Statistics Trump Service
  • There is a lot of bravado and braggadocio regarding excellent customer service, however the bottom line is statistics.  What have you brought to the business this month?  Are you in the million dollar club?  You need to shorten you customer phone calls to 400 seconds. You are providing too much information.  You are not providing enough information.  How much did you sell?
  • This has nothing to do with the customer walking away saying, "I didn't know that.  Why thank you so much. You have really helped me." 
  • These days businesses provide a four or five question telephone survey. 
    • "If the representative was pleasant press #1 for yes, #2 for no."
    • "If the representative answered your question adequately and made your dreams come  true press #1 for yes, #2 for no."
    • "If the representative sounded hot, press #1 for yes, #2 for no."
    • "If the interaction was not only satisfying, but mild and left your hands feeling softer and smoother and your nasal congestion is now gone, please press #1 for yes and #2 for no."
  • Solution - concentrate on statistics

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Christmas Shopping At Wal-Marts

This could only be seen at Wally-World.

Happy Shoppers that display their joy

This not only looks fun, but cleans the floor too.

Walmarts never discriminates, though I wish they would.

Walmart buyers purchase on the very finest merchandise

Walmarts has a great selection of ladies pants.

This model shows off the latest in womens wear and butt floss.

He IS still around folks.

This must be the Walmarts on Park Avenue in NYC.
My local Walmarts does not offer this service.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Happy Hanukah!

I wonder if they also sell Chanukah shrimp cocktail? 

Friday, December 03, 2010

The Mothership

The following photographs are from electrician Sean Heavey. They are of a weather phenomenon known as a supercell. This occurred in Glasgow Montana, where Mr. Heavey was working.

Heavey was able to piece together three photos to create the panoramic image that he witnessed from the violent scene. (See first photo)

The supercell caused minor damage and lasted several hours. This sort of weather system centers on mesocyclones, which are rotating upward drafts of air that deliver torrential rain and high wind. A mesocyclone, known as the mother of tornados, can be up to six miles wide and produce as many as 60 tornadoes.

Sean Heavey has been taking photographs of storms for the past seven years. His masterpiece, called “The Mothership” has put him up for an award from the National Geographic Society.

Taking photographs of storms for the past seven years, this year Sean and his masterpiece are up for a prestigious award from National Geographic.

'The 'Mother ship' picture is a super-cell storm that was around five to ten miles in diameter with hurling winds of around 85 miles per hour.

Sean Heavey

Thursday, December 02, 2010


A white man who pleaded guilty to six robberies in Ohio used a black mask so lifelike that police initially arrested a black man for one of the crimes.

Conrad Zdzierak, 30, pleaded guilty Monday in Hamilton County Ohio to one count of aggravated robbery and five counts of robbery in a plea deal with prosecutors.

The mother of the wrongly accused man even thought a photo of the robbery suspect she saw on television was a photo of her son. An unnamed black man's mother saw a surveillance video picture like this one on television and believed the robber was her son.

Actual Bank Securiy photo
Zdzierak, who should have bought a VOWEL with his ill-gotten-gain, robbed four banks, a credit union and a drug store within a 3 hour period.

He faces up to 35 years in prison at his January 7 sentencing. In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors dropped 12 other charges. In all probability he had robbed other institutions.

Zdzierak's mask

An unidentified black man was wrongly arrested and incarcerated for the crime.

Zdzierak was arrested at a hotel after his girlfriend called police after seeing reports of the seeing 2 masks in the hotel bathroom and money,that was stained by the dye packs, being washed in the bathroom sink.

The masks were purchased from SPFX Masks, which is a company based in Van Nuys, California.

This is the second time in a matter of two weeks these masks have made the news.

Picture of the mask from SPFX

I certainly hope the TSA will be attentive to this story.