June 13, 2008

Life in Big Business

Buon giorno. I should have Neil write this because it's his story, but he's too busy trying to make money to pay the bills. As for me, I'm in a better mood because some money has come to me that I've been waiting a long time to receive.

Neil works for a major American corporation. It's very big, and has international holdings. They complained that in their last quarter, they did not make as many tens of millions of dollars as they expected. Poor darlings! Neil says that this company is too big and too impersonal. I agree. The problem is, that's the way most of them get.

His company does not care about its employees. They make a pretense at benefits because they could not get anyone to work there if they did not offer them (and their health benefits are laughable; many employees rely on their spouses for coverage). They cut out the overtime that many employees relied on to survive. Instead, they will have to learn the hard way that there is too much work, too little time to do it and it will lead to the company having to pay many large fines because they violated laws for being timely.

There are many irritations that show that this company does not care about the people that make it wealthy. An incident yesterday really set Neil off. One of his co-workers who had been there for over a decade was removed. (Well, they said "laid off". That's different from being terminated. Termination indicates that you are bad. A layoff is a nice way of saying, "Get lost, we don't need you anymore".) There were two others that were laid off, but they were in another office and he did not know them.

Now, this lady had been a good worker and learned many facets of the organization. So, she must have been making a halfway decent wage. When the company decided to do cutbacks, they not only eliminated the overtime, but eliminated jobs as well. She was caught in a "business decision".

Frankly, they've learned poorly from the Mafia (let's pretend that they really do exist). The half-assed ruthlessness of "nothing personal, it's only business" is coupled with incompetence. Organized crime does not accept incompetence. I've heard it said that the "business decision" and "nothing personal" line is crapola. When you lose your job, it's very personal. They're playing fast and loose with people's lives.

I detest the term, "Human Resources". What is a resource? Something that you use up, squeeze dry, throw away and find another. And now we have departments set up to officially drain you dry.

The bean counters in accounting don't care about the effects on people. They are only interested in making the fastest grotzits possible, and are unaware of long-term effects. Neil has already met people that are angry about the unjust removal of employees. They do not accept the "business decisions", and are less willing to work as hard because, frankly, hard work and loyalty are not rewarded. Well, sometimes they are, but it's just window dressing.

Businesses like this give Capitalism a bad name.

Let's end this comedy with an un-funny and actually somewhat touching moment from the end of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Mr. Shirley, the boss, suspended Christmas bonuses and did not tell anyone. Then he had to look the Griswolds in the eye. He said, "Sometimes things look good on paper, but lose their luster when you see how it affects real folks. I guess a healthy bottom line doesn't mean much, if to get it you have to hurt the ones you depend on. It's people that make the difference."

I'd like that carved into the concrete of every business.

There are successful businesses that are good to their employees, so it's not just a "business decision". These companies know the realities of having people work for them. Neil's company is a Fortune 500 business, but it's not in the top 100 "best companies to work for" lists.

I think I read (many years ago) in Lee Iacocca's autobiography, "If you give your employees your best, they'll give you their best." Whether he said it or not, it's something to seriously consider.

June 9, 2008

Obnoxious Fox

Buon giorno. You're traveling through a realm of annoyance. It is a realm that lies at the summit of man's irritation or the pit of his tolerance. It is a journey through a land of both ego and pride, of stupidity and ignorance. Arrogance is paramount. Introspection is rare. There's a signpost up ahead. Your next stop: The Obnoxious Zone.

OK, enough of the bad Twilight Zone introduction re-write. But I had to blow off some steam. Very rough weekend, especially with the brutal heatwave. Tommy the Knocker has put dry ice in front of his fan, it's so bad. Maybe if it didn't hit six weeks before the usual time, it would be easier to tolerate.

Yours truly has had to do some self-examination. Do I trash something that I like because of the people associated with it? That's what it comes down to. You see, I'm more than fed up with the "Spread Firefox" community. Basically, it's full of virgin geeks doing their "Yeah! Firefox rocks, dude!" rhetoric. And those kinds of cheer leading squads do not accept anything less than total agreement and encouragement.

I was a member of that community, but various responses to questions that I had asked, and others had asked, were sorely lacking. Did you notice the lack of "Get Firefox" buttons to click? I took them down because I was so angry at that crowd. The final straw was when a post I had made there about being intrusive (and linking to this post) mysteriously disappeared. Not that there was anything wrong with it, they had it up for a month or so, but it vanished. And posts before and after it were still there. Can't stand for anything less than enthusiastic agreement, Fox Fans?

The anger was so intense that I was about to delete Firefox itself. That's when I had to remember to practice what I preach: the representatives of an organization, movement, religion or whatever do not necessarily mean that the thing is bad in and of itself. I know people who hate Christianity because of bad Christians. No, the Bible is true and Christ has risen. Joe Superchristian is a phony, sure. He's also human and makes mistakes. But that's no reason to disbelieve in God, for instance. And I had to remember that I like Firefox better than the alternatives, not to delete it because of its fan geeks.

Maybe some of them will see this post. But I hope that the problems that I illustrate here will help show examples of how not to act. The first lesson is that you won't learn much from people that agree with you! And cowardly deleting postings in a public forum that pretends to encourage discussion will not accomplish anything. Except, perhaps, of having people like me delete their accounts and ceasing to aggressively spread "the word".

By the way. Fans of the Opera browser have done some very sneaky and underhanded things to promote their favorite software. So don't you guys get all excited about this post. Your time may still come.

Now I'm going to comment on some of the "Quick Wins"  (this is gone after a site overhaul) that were posted (and my comments were deleted after a month, as I said before). There are some good ones in there, so I won't mention those. And this time, I'm not going to be as gentile as I was in their forum, because this is my Weblog. Capice?

Go to a local computer store such as Best Buy, CompUSA or Fry’s. Open Notepad on one of the display machines and leave a short advertisement for Firefox. Is it just me, or would that be annoying and make people unwilling to try Firefox?

Earn yourself 10 affiliate points today. Send a letter to your local or campus newspaper about Firefox. They've always been dodgy about how to get the points, who assigns them, or whatever. Besides, they're only for "bragging rights", and, therefore, worthless.

Leave a post-it note on the desk of a random person in your office that you don’t know that says “getfirefox.com”. Don’t sign it. How tacky is this?

Leave a note in your mailbox telling your mailman about Firefox. Too bad people don't know that postal carriers are (theoretically) supposed to remove things from mailboxes that are not mail. Also, the carrier is there to deliver mail. I really don't think that she's all that interested in her next browser.

Eat out tonight. When you pay the bill, leave the waiter a monetary tip and a handwritten tip to the tune of “getfirefox.com”. As above, the server isn't interested in Internet stuff. This one isn't quite as bad, especially if there is indeed a monetary tip involved.

Print out three copies of this Firefox datasheet and pin it to three bulletin boards in your town. Think: community centers, gyms, workplaces, Jamba Juice… Is that effective, or is it just littering? After all, again, you have to be selective in where you put things. You decide.

There is no urgency. Lives are not at stake. Firefox is a great browser and thrives on people spreading its word. I'll still do it, but I will no longer be involved in the Spread Firefox "community".

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to reorder my Stormbringer Productions brochures. You see I have to edit out that part about "member of Spread Firefox". Arrivederci.

Addendum 6-10-2008: There are some serious people at Spread Firefox that are trying to make that community thing work, and I have been contacted by a couple of them, assuring me that my posts have not been deleted or targeted. It's a bug in the system.

Addendum 6-15-2008: I'm certain that I've ruffled a few Firefox feathers. If this fox wants to be fair and balanced, fans should do a search in the box at the top of the page for my positive references to Firefox.

May 23, 2008

Reputation and Persuasion

That title would make a good song title, wouldn't it?

About eight months ago, I wrote about having a reputation, whether you like it or not. You do all you can to build a good one, and when you really need it, it can pay off.

But there's something that you have to deal with: mindless sheep. You see, I believe that the world is in a state of social or societal entropy, where everything goes from order to disorder. Everything goes downhill. Things get worse. Naturally, we have to put our own efforts and energy into the world to slow the decay, and have areas where things are actually good for a while.

A preacher pointed this out to me several years ago: people love to believe negative things, but are unwilling to believe positive things. Just look at all the rumors you hear. How many of them are good things? Not many. But mindless sheep love to hear those things. More, they like to spread bad things as well. The worse (or more sensational) it is, the faster it spreads. And it gets worse in the telling.

Remember, I've said that my own experiences and mistakes that I talk about here are, hopefully, useful to the readers. I don't know how much use this is beyond illustration, but I'll tell you about something.

There are a number of my relatives that think I'm a worthless piece of — uh, excrement. I'm just a useless a**hole that doesn't do anything for anybody. The funny thing is, this nonsense comes from one or two chronic liars that want to bring me down. (One in particular really is a worthless piece of excrement and an a**hole that doesn't do anything for anybody, unless there's something for her to gain.) And I have to deal with mindless sheep that listen to and spread these stories.

What can you do when you're on the receiving end of merda like this? First, remember that it's very difficult to stop a rumor because people love to believe negative things. Keep on building up your reputation where it matters, ignore the rest. After all, the more noise you make and protest, the more people are likely to believe the lies. If there are people in the chain that have some influence and some reason, you may try to tell your side of the story. But don't make a huge issue of it or it can backfire. Meanwhile, there are people who know who you are and respect you.

There are people that hate me. Hard to believe, but it's true. Most of the time, it's from losers that I don't even want to give me their admiration. There are people that respect me, and I respect them. It's a good feeling. Let mindless sheep bleat all they want.

You can take consolation in what you've accomplished, the lives you've touched for the better (even if only a little bit), the people that you care about and also care about you. Cafones that can't think for themselves and believe nonsense about you? You don't need them. Roll on.

May 15, 2008

A Sirius Interview

Buon giorno. Your not so humble host was invited to be on Sirius Satellite Radio's "Blog Bunker", Indie Talk 110. The topic was the Tibet situation. My first response was, "Yeah, sure". But then I found out that it was on the level. I was on last night (14 May 2008) at just after 17.00 for about fifteen minutes. I wanted to be in the studio, but with a series of personal crises and distractions, I had to do it by telephone.

My apologies to the host, I believe his name was Joe Salzone, for being unsure of his name. But I was a bit nervous. Although they bill it as a round-table discussion, it was just Joe and me. When he asked a question, I just launched. (Penne told me later that she wondered if I was going to even take a breath in the first few minutes.) All those years of learning, plus the desire to get my point across, came out like machine gun fire. I think one reason that I launched so badly is that I've seen and heard so many shows where, if the guest pauses for a second, he can't finish his point. But that's just my own hang-up.

Mr. Salzone was not contentious. Obviously, his professional instincts told him that I wasn't used to this. Even though I've spoken to groups that sometimes numbered in the hundreds (different subject in a different life), I was still shaking. At least, my voice didn't squeak. Ernie the Gambler and Nicky both had to help settle me down afterwards.

Also, the host didn't call me on it when I messed up on a couple of questions. When he asked, I launched again. Didn't even take time to make a joke or two, which is rare for me. Later, I began to wonder if I misunderstood the question (or was it two?) and answered something he did not ask.

And he didn't exactly coddle me. There were some standard questions that I was expecting (like the first one), but then he threw me a couple of curves. Glad I knew my subject. And even when I didn't, I was able to bluster through the question.

Anyway, I don't think I did too badly, especially for a first time. Next time, I'll do better. Next time, I don't think Joe will give me a free pass. Yes, I was told that they might have me back sometime. (Maybe this time I'll get to meet Alexandra!) In the meantime, I told them to get with Agam. You ready, Pal?

It was a good experience, if short and nerve-wracking. But I'm willing to do it again. Especially if there's some chance that it will gain some more attention for the people of Tibet.

April 20, 2008

As the World Burns

Buon giorno. I've found out through years of experience that I can't convince people of anything: "I have my mind made up, don't confuse me with facts". But, as I've said before, you never met a Weblog writer quite like me! I have to give my views of the truth, and I like to present evidence when I'm not too busy. And I'm finding time for this one.

Since this article is for Urf Day, I'm writing in green ink. So to speak. Ah, Urf Day. When we hear the gospel of environmentalism, tree-hugging and conservation. Sure, I'm all for conservation and being environmentally friendly. But I like it within reason. It's become quite the religion for some people, and they wear it like a badge or even get smug about it. Hey, save a tree, read online! Too bad cafones don't bother to tell you that trees are a renewable resource; they are farmed so we don't have the barren wilderness that was threatening to happen in the early 1900s.

The biggest deal that puts me off to environmentalism is the global warming hype. Yes, hype. I'm ready to take the heat for this one. (Yeah, I made a funny.) When they show that stuff on channels like Discovery, I call it, "Oh-My-Gosh-We're-All-Gonna-Die" Week. The stories are slanted and alarmist. First they tell us that we all have to work together to stop global warming because it's all humanity's fault (never mind volcanoes, how about capping them?), then some tell us that it's too late, it's irreversible, we're doomed. But "global climate change" had a different alarm in the 1970s, with scares of a coming ice age! And they want to blame humans for what is, in reality, normal cycles of warming and cooling. And global warming will lead to cannibalism. My brain hurts.

We've just had some pretty cold winters. Iraq had snow for the "first time in memory". Record snowfalls in the winter of 2007-2008. Baby, it's cold outside. Tell me something, willya? These people are using computer models, making predictions and all that for 10, 50, 100 years and more. Why in blazes do we trust them to prophesy about the end of the world when they can't even get next weekend's weather forecast right? Sure wish I could remember who said that before me so I could give proper credit.

The high priest of global warming is undoubtedly Al Gore. His Gorebal warming stuff is annoying. What's more annoying is that people are convinced by pretty pictures and believe something just because there's a video or movie with slick production. Hey, Al! You had a serious refutation by a schoolgirl's extra credit work. Too bad the Website she did seems to be down. Maybe it was taken down by those that can't handle the truth! Conspiracy! Algore is pretty reluctant to take on actual scientists in debates. Makes me wonder. No, not really.

Hey, how about those carbon offsets? That's a load of crap. Take a look at the Wall Street Journal. Or the Financial Times. It didn't take long for me to find that bit of information here, to show that it's fraud. I recently bought a bag of "Sun Chips", and I couldn't believe that they had something stamped on the bag to the effect of, "We buy carbon offsets". Oh, please. It's a false guilt conscience bandage for the wealthy; buying carbon offsets will do nothing.

I've said before that constant repetition of one viewpoint, especially masquerading as science, is nothing short of brainwashing. Guess what? There are serious scientists with opposing views, as I hinted before. Why don't we hear from them? Scientists don't like that movie he did, with good reason. I didn't waste my time watching it.

Here's one of the best parts: The Untied (misspelling intentional) Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been challenged by scientists to back off from their absurd global warming position. That's the way, take the challenge to the top! If this has gotten your attention and you want more evidence against what gets shoved in your face every day, let Thomas Brewton show you some things.

So, I laugh at Algore and tolerate rabid environmentalists. I try not to be wasteful and detest pollution. Being environmentally friendly is common sense when it's not taken to extremes, and I'm all for it. Global warming? Nah. That nonsense doesn't scare me, even though it's the current "consensus". I'm much more concerned with the effects of the Chinese communists on the Tibetans, and the rest of the world. Now that is a real problem worthy of my attention. Ciao!

Addendum 12-28-2008:
Here is another link worth reading.

March 26, 2008

It's a Learning Process

Hey, Kids! Don't try this at home. I did, and I regretted it. As I've said before, sometimes I try to use my own experiences as an example for others. In this case, something to avoid.

Something else I've said before is that I have Type 2 diabetes. Don't worry, you can't catch it. It's pretty well under control when I pay attention. On Easter Sunday, I wasn't paying close enough attention. Sure, I can have some dessert (which has sugar) and an extra helping of potatoes (which have starch). Too bad I didn't know that the ham had a kind of sugar glaze or something. And that sugar was added to the corn. When everything was added up, it was harmful.

Two hours after eating, I took a blood reading. And almost fell off my chair because it was my all-time high. Now, other diabetics might look at my number of about 223 and say, "Big deal." Well, the normal range for a healthy adult is 80-120, and my doctor wants me around 100 (which it has been more often than not).

But it was a shock to me, and I overcompensated. Instead of taking one of my remedies, I took three. The third was the worst, because I took an additional 1,000 mg. of Metformin (an oral insulin that I normally have just twice a day, but I did one more). Shoulda stopped with the cinnamon tablet and vinegar water as my first response, but I was wound up and acting like a cafone.

Well, I was getting nervous. Thought it was what I was reading about Tibet, and some things I had e-mailed that were, uh, strongly-worded. I stepped outside to settle down. When I came back in, I was feeling worse. "This isn't a nerve thing", I thought.

I was shaking and pale, and decided to do an extra blood reading. Almost fell off the chair again. I was down to 65! A crash was coming on. I dropped 158 points in an hour or two, no wonder I was feeling weird. So, I had to bring it back up. What a friggin' roller-coaster ride. I ate some things (wasn't hungry, but what are you gonna do?) and I felt better, eventually.

What I did was like smashing a mosquito with a sledgehammer: It kills the bug, but ruins your floor. It had been said to me that dealing with diabetes is a learning process. I learned. It wasn't life-threatening, but it may have threatened my retaining consciousness. Maybe some diabetics can relate to my little story. For everyone else, I have a lesson: don't overcompensate. Respond a little at a time.

March 16, 2008

No Irish Need Apply

Mora Na Maidine Dhuit! Top of the morning to you! Irish you all a happy St. Patrick's Day. My ancestors did not exactly come from the Emerald Isle. They emigrated there from Scotland.

Although the Irish seem to be the second largest ethnic group in the US, I really don't think that people know much about them. The perception is that they have a cute accent, a way with words, invented terrorism, drink to excess and really know how to throw a party. So, before you go out and have green beer, wear funny hats, fake an Irish accent (which most people do rather poorly), wear green clothing and all that, I'd like for you to read a bit about the Irish.

Are there any famous Irish people that have enriched society in general? Looks like I have to do your work for you again. That's all right, I know you're busy. But just a few names, there are quite a few. The ones I'm listing were born in Ireland.

We'll start with some actors:
* Patrick McGoohan
* Pierce Brosnan (I think he was an excellent James Bond)
* Maureen O'Hara

* Maureen O'Sullivan
* Peter O'Toole

And then some musicians:
* Phil Coulter
* Enya (with the really cool name of Eithne Ní Bhraonáin)
* James Galway

* Turlough O'Carolan
* Cora Venus Lunny

Some literary figures:
* C. S. Lewis (he wrote the Chronicles of Narnia, Screwtape Letters, Mere Chrisitanity and more)
* George Bernard Shaw
* William Butler Yeats
* Mary Lavin

* Isabella Augusta, Lady Gregory

Moving on to science:
* Ernest Thomas Sinton Walton
* Ellen Hutchins
* Robert Boyle (one of the founders of modern chemistry)

* Lucien Bull (with photography and the electrocardiogram, I've felt his influence myself)
*
William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin

Sports? Yes, plenty. Look that up yourself.

I guess there are more Irish people than you thought that have had influence in the world, huh, Scooter?

As far as "inventing terrorism", no, they didn't do that. But they did become famous for it with the Irish Republican Army. That was a radical group of separatists, predominantly in Northern Ireland. They were as typical of the Irish as Bin Laden is typical of Arabs: not. This group's use of terrorism, however, is a black eye that the Irish will have to live down. I was at a Celtic festival and saw a guy wearing a shirt with "IRA", and a fist holding a rifle. It took all I had to keep from showing him some personal terrorism with my fists! Stronzo!

If you look up the Potato Famine, you'll see why there was an influx of Irish immigrants to the United States. What most history books will not tell you, however, is that the English made the whole problem worse. And then they had discrimination in the US.

Let me interject that I get very tired of various groups acting like they have a monopoly on discrimination. (Further interjection: the word slave is based o
n the word Slav, for the slavic people. What does that tell you?) The Irish had plenty of discrimination as well. What were people afraid of? Maybe that the Irish would turn America into a Papist state. Who knows? People fear what they're not accustomed to. Look, they have their share of criminals, slobs and basic losers just like any other group, capice? And a lot more of the quality people than the bad sorts.

So, while you're having your corned beef and cabbage (which is not a traditional Irish dish, but developed in the US by the Irish), try to have a sober thought for the hard-working Irish who have contributed to society in many fields. Maybe give a read about St. Patrick, who was not actually Irish by birth...

Slán leat. Go mbeannaí Dia duit.

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