Monday, March 27, 2006

The economy - Part 2

I received 3 emails regarding wait staff at restaurants from former waiters and waitresses. One was from my own sister.

So I must clarify what I mean so my food isn't spit in before it's delivered to my table.

First you must understand that the restaurants I normally patronize are greasy spoons. They pay their wait staff very little probably because I pay very little and expect even less for the service and food I receive. I'm not picky and typically will eat anything.

Let's just say you're a competent wait person. You enjoy working in a restaurant as it fits the value of your time and satisfies all of the gratification you want from a profession. Hooray for you, you can wait my table anytime and you should expect an enormous tip. I do tip well.

So when the economy is bad, you find that as turnover in your position continues the vacated jobs are being filled with people who are competent and on the ball. You enjoy working with these people and they enjoy you.

Then the economy picks up and more and more jobs are available all over. Lots of people will shift around in vocations looking for what satisfies them and then service level jobs are left looking for jobs to fill. You find that you (remember, you're a competent person) is now working with people who call in sick a lot, don't do the sidework or ask you to do their section for you, don't get things right and make customers complain. You also see your own tips suffer because you work with...oh it goes....complete idiots.

When I explained this to my sister (who has 10 years plus as a waitress and enjoyed it) she completely agreed. She just wanted to make sure that I wasn't calling all wait staff idiots.

My answer to her was this: No not all wait staff my dear sister, just you.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

How I know the economy is recovering

When the economy was in the dumper I noticed that if I had any money and was at a restaurant or some other service industry place, the customer service I got was remarkable. I'd talk to these people and would always get the same story that went sorta like this:

"I just got laid off so I'm working here until I get my resume around or maybe I'll go back to school. Anyway, gotta pay the bills."

Following that conversation was always more competent service and I always wished them well because I knew they'd be successful in any endeavor because they had their act together. When the economy stinks more skilled people are thrown into the workforce and eventually occupy jobs normally held by idiots.

Today I have full confidence that our economy has made a full recovery.

First stop is to CompUSA. I needed a new power supply for my laptop and was looking at the universal adapters. The description on the back of the package was close to my laptop's model number but was missing one letter. I asked a guy if he could look it up for me. He told me he'd like to but he was sorta busy. I didn't get a "one minute" or "I can find another person to help you" but instead was told that he was 'kinda busy.' I told him that I was kinda not shopping there anymore.

Second I stop into Bartell Drugs to get a new passport photo. The guy at the counter doesn't know how to work the camera. He calls his manager over and they just play with the camera for a few minutes and finally she just takes off with it. He and I stood there for about 5 minutes when I asked him, "Could you get an ETA on your manager?"

He said, "I don't know where she went."

I said, "Can you go find out?"

He asked me, "What do you want me to find out?"

I calmy told him, "I want to know if she's figuring out the camera so we both don't just stand here."

He said, "Okay." He wandered slowly toward the back of the store and stood by the pharmacy just staring.

I left.

Third and final stop I was standing in line at a teriyaki place with two people who are likely itinerant workers from a large country south of the United States. (I'm trying not to say Mexican) After they order and talk to the Asian woman behind the counter they both roll their eyes because they couldn't really understand her.

I guess her broken English was offensive to these two who apparently both possessed a more superior form of broken English. Sheesh.

So friends, just ignore all of the normal leading economic indicators and take my word for it. The economy is alive and well.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Limericks - Get them while they're hot

I knew it was bad from the start
It began as just a small fart
It happened so fast
That short little blast
But alas it was only a shart

Screw that...limericks are too hard.

Here's a St. Patty's Day Haiku:

Your green overalls
To me a butcher's apron
So God Save the Queen

I barfed on my shirt
I'm wearing green afterall
Fun to be Irish

You try!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Whatever you do, don't blush!

I will tell you two stories about how I said something I thought was funny and instead of spawning laughter, my comment brought on a blank stare and a red face.

Story number one begins here: I worked in the gaming industry for years. During one lowpoint (as jobs were scarce) I was a lead for a group of testers that tested XBox games. It was sometimes a fun job and sometimes I just wanted to urinate on the floor to entertain myself. One of my testers was playing an action adventure game and he set down his controller and said, "Oh man they got me!" I looked over and wondered what happened. Then he said, "I had five guys on me at once." I replied, "That must be a dream come true for you." Everyone laughed...he blushed.

Story number two begins here: At a bakery it took a long time for the guy behind the counter to acknowledge that I was standing at the counter awhile. He finally asked, "Anything look good to you?" I replied, "I was just admiring your buns." I'm looking down at the sticky buns along the display counter. The guy behind me laughs...the baker blushes.

Don't blush! Please just laugh it off so we're not all left wondering what you're thinking. We don't want to know.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Law Enforcement

A local TV station obtained video of a routine traffic stop where a woman received a ticket for going eleven over the speed limit. She initially refused to sign the ticket (despite being told it was not an admission of guilt) and then was put under arrest.

The woman had already signed the ticket (at which point it is not known) but the officer persisted with his attempt to put her under arrest. She refused to get out of the car so he pulled her out of the car by force, pulling her hair. She was charged with resisting arrest, assault and obstruction.

The city for which the officer works has viewed the video and is comfortable with the technique that the officer used in handling the incident. I wish I could say the same thing.

I believe that the officer acted within the policies and laws, but is refusing to sign something really an offense worthy of arrest? You don't even have to sign paperwork to be divorced in this state, why should refusing to sign a ticket be a big deal? Especially when it is really just a promise to respond.

What amazes me is how the law is setup to arrest people who are just easy picking. If your house is broken into and your posessions are stolen, the police will show up and make a report and then give you a case number. The reason for the case number is so you can give it to your insurance company. How much actual investigation do they do? Aside from looking around to see whether the burglar dropped his wallet or left a signed confession you can expect them to do nothing.

Oh but if you don't sign a traffic ticket then you can be arrested and pulled out of your vehicle by your hair. There seriously can be no provision to issue a citation even without their signature? Can't they just do what UPS does and just leave a note saying it's "on the back porch?"

I'm just concerned that law enforcement has come down picking the low hanging fruit. Police do not investigate real crimes (theft or force), but instead aggressively arrest people who have done next to nothing, or what they have done is to themselves only (drug arrests).

In the end we're left with the erosion of respect for law and those who are charged with enforcing it. Maybe a change in focus would make people resent the police less so that the routine traffic stop doesn't become an overblown case of civil disobedience.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Harry Browne

Harry Browne died today.

Who is Harry Browne? Harry ran for president on the Libertarian ticket in both 1996 and 2000. He earned 485,798 vote in 1996 and was first candidate I was actually excited to cast a vote for. I knew he would lose but it didn't matter to me one iota. I appreciated voting for someone that saw the potential in our country that was untapped and restrained by legislative creep. In 2000 when the rest of you were trying to choose between Dumb and Dumber (Bush/Gore) I felt at ease voting for the guy both of them refused to debate in Boston. Most forget that the Libertarian party had 'major' party status in Massachusetts and by state law was to be included in all partisan debates. The debate went on despite a judge affirming his right to be included.

I met Harry when he visited in Seattle during the 2000 campaign and he was a very polished public speaker. I still have a copy of his book Why Government Doesn't Work and a video file of one of his TV ads that I donated to get on the air.

America lost a great man today.

Okay, now this guy pisses me off

A teacher by the name of Jay Bennish who 'teaches' at Overland High School in Aurora, Colorado was taped by a student giving what the press is calling a "rant."

Here is the Denver Post article

I listened to about a half-hour of his lecture to his students that was on a Colorado newsradio station here

I know teachers can often be taken out of context because they talk all the time and that teenagers can have oversensitive feelings if what they're hearing is diametrically opposed to their own sensibilities so I wanted to hear his so-called rant myself. After all, a social studies class should have a pretty lively delivery if high school students are expected to pay attention.

I have to commend the teacher for attempting to put context in his teaching. His students are learning way more than places and dates. I also like the fact that in listening to it is easy to discern that he has a passion for teaching. Most of the teachers I had in high school didn't like their jobs and it showed. This guy would probably only give up his teaching job for a talkshow on Air America or perhaps shining a statue of Stalin somewhere.

The thing that I find out of line is that his rant is purely his opinion and not academic in nature. I don't mind him giving his opinion but he only gives the other side's argument just to show its flaws. His argument has flaws too but he doesn't expose them. He's interested in his students being enlightened to the point of agreeing with him. In typical "progressive" fashion he loves freedom of choice as long as you come to the same conclusions he has...and then he calls it diversity.

Most of what he says is fine. I'm not a conservative and I'm not offended by Mr. Bennish critizing policies. I am offended that there are clear, substantiated, and respected academic opinions that are to the contrary of his rant and he is obliged as an 'educator' to tell those viewpoints. Fact is though he's a fraud as an educator as he probably only knows what he hears. I am not a high school educator but I am familiar with liberal/progressive, conservative, and libertine thought enough to present them in a way that can give students a real understanding. And as they mature and wiggle through life they can sort out these political philosophies on their own. I express my opinions here because it is my forum to do so, but education should not be like a blog, it should be like an open book.

His one comment alone where he stated on the tape that capitalism as a system is "at odds with human rights" is a complete joke and can easily be dismantled through academic reason.

For example Fredic Bastiat wrote in his book The Law:

Self-preservation and self-development are common aspirations among all people. And if everyone enjoyed the unrestricted use of his faculties and the free disposition of the fruits of his labor, social progress would be ceaseless, uninterrupted, and unfailing.

You could disagree with this statement just as you could the teacher's comment about capitalism but for the sake of learning couldn't you at least bring it up? Is there no opposing view that can stand up against such an intelligent onslaught that can only come from a public high school social studies teacher? Those of you who actually know any high school teachers are probably laughing now.

Look Mr. Bennish, I'm sure my tiny brain and humble intellect can't stand up to your giant high school teacher brain but forgive me while I try to simplify my half-witted response to you in the only way I am able:

If you were teaching my kid's class I would meet with you in a parent/teacher conference and I'd make you look like a blubbering fool in front of my child, your principal and whoever else wanted to watch. And then after I got you a tissue to dry your pathetic tears I'd explain to everyone that just being smarter than another person and talking over less educated people doesn't equal education. I'd then explain to my child that even your pathetic excuse for an opinion is something that should be heard, but in proper context in the face of some reasonable scrutiny.

Then you'd all stand up and give me a standing ovation for giving you such a rare learning opportunity and you would wonder how I was capable of this without the giant brain that our public educators possess. I'll leave that alone as one of life's great and wonderful mysteries.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Laughing in an embarassing way

I was sharing a story last week with someone during a meeting and I said something that made them spit their drink out while laughing. I'm not sure this had ever happened before in my adult life. What I said wasn't even that funny.

Here is an excerpt from the conversation:

Me: So my back was killing me...very stiff...and when I wrecked on the snowmobile it felt better instantly.

Person: So the snowmobile accident straightened your back?

Me: Yeah, apparently. Weird huh?

Person: Did you hear it crack or anything?

Me: No, I couldn't hear over my screaming.


Yeah, I didn't think it was funny either.