Thursday, May 26, 2011

How Gullible Are We?

"Your Vote Counts...Really?"

It has been a busy past couple of weeks. As is usual this time of year, my job is melting down and we are deep within the depths of triage management at my office. Add to this the fact that my wife and I were off on a 4 day 5th wedding anniversary weekend and it leaves little time for getting on the Internet and reading blogs or browsing ebay auctions.

So, while I am picking up the pieces of my life right now and have some killer web logs in 'draft' mode waiting in the wings, I thought I would throw this little ditty out here for consideration.

As I have stated previously, one of our guilty pleasures are some of the more insane reality shows that infest broadcast media these days. I never miss "The Amazing Race" and "Top Shot" has its moments, but one of our long standing favorites is "Dancing with the Stars". Never mind that they really aren't 'stars' and that the show is more geared to hip-hop and popular culture than ballroom dancing.

So we tuned into the final show to see Hines Ward get the mirrorball and get all teary eyed thanking his Korean-American mother and ignoring the absent father that abandoned him so many years ago.

My issue here is, how do we KNOW he won. The last dancer standing on this show is chosen by some mystical calculation of judges scores and phone in votes. However, NEVER in the history of this show, have they bothered to explain HOW these totals are calculated nor what the actual numbers are. Did Hines win by a landslide or by less than 1%. Tuff shit viewer, we aren't going to tell you.

I have this sneaking suspicion that the winner of the show, has the agent that offers the most in kickbacks to the producers. How else could you explain how Bristol Palin and Kirstie Alley lasted into the finals?

It is 'entertainment' folks, not 'competition'. They are there to sell soft drinks and pharmaceuticals, not dance competitively. Let’s get real here. Would we accept the election of the President of the United States without knowing the numbers, or would we just assume that Sara Palin is Commander In Cheif just because Tom Brokaw tells us she is?

I will be back in the next week or so with more enlightening and better written web logs, but in the mean time, follow me on:


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I Try, I Really Do!


It all started back in late 1990s. I discovered that there was data loss on the database. Information was being deleted for no apparent reason, so I wrote an e-mail to all my superiors and the support center in the Information Technology Division. I never head anything back.

I raised the issue again in a meeting we had three months later and everyone around the table was SHOCKED at the data loss. “Why didn’t you tell anyone?”, my program manager asked me. “I did.”, I replied, I e-mailed everyone sitting at this table about it three months ago, didn’t anyone read it, I can forward it to you again, it still sits in my sent folder waiting for a reply.”

I could hear the shuffling of feet under the table and the nervous glances that everyone started throwing at each other. I was informed after the meeting by a supervisor in the hallway that “no one ever reads my e-mails”. If something was important, I had to force others to listen to me. I couldn’t type the word “FIRE” to someone, I had to go and yell it in their face.

Since that day, I have written several long and detailed memos / e-mails up the corporate ladder where I work regarding ‘issues’ that we have in our work process and redesigning our business model. All of them have gone into the same black hole of the e-mail waste bin.

I have also found that yelling it in their faces didn’t do much better. I raised these same issues in key management meetings, and pressed for time lines and focus groups to move these changes toward implementation. I am told they would be discussed later, but they never were.

So in the interim, I continue to run the race with concrete sneakers, doing three times the amount of work that is necessary to accomplish my job.

Yesterday, I got an e-mail from my manager regarding a report that is generated every month from our database that is showing expired information. I fixed this report 5 months ago and e-mailed out a draft of it to see if it met with everyones approval before setting it to run on the database server. You guessed it, I never heard back from anyone. I re-forwarded the e-mail to him and told him that I would schedule to run on the server by the end of the soon as I have run a few more laps in my lead track shoes.

If you look at the top of the right side panel of my web log you will see a count down timer for my retirement. That little clock cannot tick fast enough for me these days.

Friday, May 6, 2011

First Friday Flashbacks

I am glad I write this stuff down, otherwise I would forget it....and some of this stuff is just too good to forget. Memories from the rails.

(first published: August 14, 2008)


Levi and the Train

The ground dropped away as the train rolled onto the trestle. Levi leaned toward the glass of the observation car and looked down. Three hundred feet below, the river looked green and placid. The brim of his Amish hat bumped against the window glass as his baby daughter shifted in his arms. This land was so vast and empty, nothing like his lush farmland in the upper midwest.

As the train soared above the Texas river he glanced around the observation car at his fellow passengers.

The shutter clicked on the Nikon AE6, capturing the placid face of the young Amish man as he starred at the broad Texas plain. Hiro flicked the film advance lever as he lowered the camera. He had taken more than 30 rolls of 35mm film. With each click of the shutter, another expression, another face, another story. He wondered what they were all thinking. Behind him he heard a cell phone ring.

Courtney looked at the caller-ID for a moment and then flipped open her phone and held it to her ear.

"So, you're going to talk to me again?"

It was evident that the person on the other end of the phone was her girlfriend in Santa Fe. Courtney was on her way to see her, but there had been a misunderstanding the previous day. The girlfriend had been told that Courtney was really coming to see her live-in boyfriend. Everyone within the Stream-liner got to hear the conversation, whether they wanted to or not.

"That's crazy, why would I do that? You know me better than that!"

The great gorge outside the windows went unnoticed. She was focused on the drama in her mind and nothing else really mattered.

Robert gently squeezed Lisa's hand and smiled at her. She grinned back at him as they listened to Courtney's one-sided conversation. They had met in High School 35 years ago. This was their journey back, across a lifetime of memories. Memories that spanned wars, jobs, marriages, children and loss. They both knew that the drama that surrounded Courtney would be just a footnote in her life, and not the chapter that she now thought it would be.

As the train rolled back onto the Texas prairie, Lisa leaned across the isle and asked Levi, "What your daughter's name?"

"Rebecca", was his reply as he gently bounced her on his knee.

"She is adorable."


This is a condensed slice of life from my trip earlier this year from Philadelphia to Phoenix by rail. All of these characters were present on the train as was the actual scene. The blog graphic is Levi standing next to the train in Ft Worth, Texas. You can read more about this trip in the original blog posted about it, Travels With Casper.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

From The Mouth Of Babes

Cheap Child Labor

Last weekend, we took the ‘munchkin’ for another day. The munchkin is our grandson, Connor. For a look back at the first weekend that we had the little tyke, check out “The Teachable Moment” from last month.

This time around we were set to teach Connor the value of physical labor and hard work. He was going to learn how to mow my lawn. At long last, I was promoted to supervisor of the yard and I had a minon to do the dirty work for me, or so I thought.

Prior to his arrival, we had to go and pick him up from his parents house, who live about 30 miles away. We had my mother-in-law (MIL) in tow as well because we were running some errands with her. She lives in a retirement community.

After picking up Connor, we had an early dinner at a local oriental restaurant, then took the MIL home and headed back to our place to start yard maintenance 101. As we pulled into the retirement home where the MIL lives, the following conversation took place between the MIL (who is 85) and Connor (who is 8).

Connor: “Grandma GeGe, why don’t YOU own a car?”

Grandma GeGe: “I can’t really afford one Connor, they are pretty expensive.”

Connor: “oh”

Connor: “Thats because you are poor!”

At this point the wife and I just looked at each other and cringed. The MIL just looked at Connor and smiled.

My MIL never planned on living as long as she has and she made no attempts to plan for her retirement. She has no savings and lives off of social security only. My wife and I have to help with her rent and expenses. No one else will.

About a year ago, my MIL fell pray to scam artists that robbed her of over $1,000 with the promise that she was a multi-million dollar lottery winner. You can read more about that episode in the web log “The Wolves Among Us”. It was because of this episode that we had to take control over what was left of her bank accounts and take away her car and Internet access.

As we dropped my MIL off at her apartment and left the retirement community parking lot, my wife and I turned to Connor in the back seat.

“We need to have a little chat Connor.”

On the way home, was another teachable moment about honesty, respect and not always telling the truth.

We have a long way to go with this kid.